Healthy diet cuts teens’ blood pressure

Adolescents with elevated blood pressure can lower their blood pressure and improve their nutrient intake by following a teen version of the so-called DASH diet, results of a new study suggest.

The American Heart Association’s DASH diet - which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension - is high in fruits, vegetables, fiber, minerals and low-fat dairy products and low in saturated fat and salt. It is recommended for all adults with hypertension (high blood pressure).

In the new study, investigators found that boys and girls aged 11 to 18 years who were counseled to follow a DASH diet doubled their intake of fruits and vegetables, and increased their intake of potassium and magnesium by 42 and 36 percent, respectively.

Moreover, the teens decreased high fat and high salt foods by about 1 serving per day, and decreased total fat intake by 12 percent over 3 months, Dr. Sarah Couch from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, and colleagues report in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Notably, “these positive dietary changes were accompanied by significant reductions in blood pressure,” Couch told Reuters Health.

By contrast, a group of “control” adolescents who received usual blood pressure lowering dietary advice showed either no or lesser changes in diet and blood pressure.

The study involved 57 boys and girls with elevated blood pressure who were referred to the Cincinnati Children’s Hypertension Center for treatment between September 2003 and December 2005.

About half of the adolescents and their parents received routine counseling. The other teens were counseled to follow a modified low fat/low salt DASH, aided by their parents. The teens were encouraged to comply with the DASH diet via weekly telephone calls and bi-weekly mailings for 3 months.

Initially, 72 percent of the adolescents in the DASH group and 39 percent in the routine “control” group had hypertension. Three months later, 50 percent of the DASH dieters had achieved normal blood pressure, compared with 36 percent of the control group.

After 6 months, 61 percent of the DASH dieters had normal blood pressure compared with 44 percent of the control group.

However, the teens had difficulty reducing their salt intake, Couch said. “Both groups were consuming about 3 grams of sodium per day, and this intake did not change significantly over the 6 month trial.”

Couch and colleagues are continuing to assess the long-term effects of the teen DASH diet, as well as methods for improving compliance with necessary dietary interventions.

SOURCE: The Journal of Pediatrics, April 2008

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