The DASH diet, developed specifically to help lower or control high blood pressure, is associated with reduced inflammation of the heart, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. In addition, researchers found, combining the DASH diet with a low-sodium diet can reduce cardiac injury and strain. Overall, the DASH diet was associated with a 13% reduction in inflammation. Combining the DASH diet with a reduced-sodium diet, meanwhile, resulted in the substantial benefits for reducing cardiac injury (20%) and cardiac stress (23%), but no significant change to inflammation.
“Our study represents some of the strongest evidence that diet directly impacts cardiac damage, and our findings show that dietary interventions can improve cardiovascular risk factors in a relatively short time period,” Stephen Juraschek, MD, PhD, an assistant professor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. “The data reinforce the importance of a lifestyle that includes a reduced-sodium, DASH diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains to minimize cardiac damage over time.”
Juraschek et al. evaluated data from an analysis first completed back in 1999. For that original study, more than 400 participants with elevated blood pressure were randomly assigned to either follow the DASH diet or a “typical American diet.” Each participant was also asked to either consume low, medium or high amounts of sodium for four weeks.
For this updated analysis, the team analyzed stored specimens from that original study. They specifically measured three biomarkers—high sensitivity cardiac troponin I (hs-cTnl), N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP)—that are linked to cardiac injury, cardiac stress and cardiac inflammation, respectively.
Overall, the DASH diet was associated with a 13% reduction in inflammation. Combining the DASH diet with a reduced-sodium diet, meanwhile, resulted in the substantial benefits for reducing cardiac injury (20%) and cardiac stress (23%), but no significant change to inflammation.
“We used highly sensitive markers of subclinical cardiovascular disease to show how two dietary strategies can improve distinct mechanisms of subclinical cardiac injury in a relatively short time period, suggesting that the improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors observed from a reduced-sodium, DASH diet may also reduce concurrent cardiac damage,” Juraschek added. “Our study has important clinical implications, and these findings should strengthen public resolve for public policies that promote the DASH dietary pattern and lower sodium intake in the United States and globally.”