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Diet is better than drugs to lower blood pressure

Combining a low-salt diet with the “cardioprotective” principles of the DASH diet proves more effective than taking potent antihypertensive drugs at lowering systolic blood pressure, according to a new intervention study.

Long promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean dairy, fish, poultry, and legumes nuts and seeds.

It has been shown many times to be effective in lowering blood pressure, as is a low-salt diet. The purpose of this new study, conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was to evaluate the combined effect of these two approaches in adults with early or mild forms of hypertension, ie a group at high risk of developing a more severe form of hypertension develop hypertension.

DASH diet, less salt and dramatic effects on blood pressure

For 12 weeks, 412 adults with a systolic blood pressure (BP) of 120 to 159 mmHg followed either a DASH diet or a control diet, which is about the average for the American population.

Sodium intake was randomly modified over 4-week periods to be low (1150 mg sodium per day), moderate (2300 mg/d), or high (3450 mg/d). Participants were divided into groups according to their baseline systolic PS.

The results, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, show that the DASH diet results in a decrease in PS that is greater the higher the baseline PS. However, the most spectacular results are seen with the combination of the DASH diet and a low sodium intake.

More effective than antihypertensive drugs

So while the DASH diet alone reduces systolic PS by only 4 mmHg in those with the lowest baseline PS (120-129 mmHg), the reduction in those with a PS of 150 at 159 mmHg is 11 mmHg.

And when those with the highest baseline PS combined the DASH diet and a low sodium intake, it was an average reduction of 21 mm Hg compared to the control diet.

To clarify the significance of these results, the authors explain that the Food and Drug Administration requires a 3-4 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure for every new antihypertensive drug submitted for approval, and that the most widely used drugs , Beta-blockers reduce systolic PS by an average of 10-15 mmHg.


Juraschek S et al. Effects of sodium reduction and the DASH diet on baseline blood pressure. J.Am. coll. cardiol; 70(23): 2841-2848.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.

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