The blood pressure-lowering DASH diet also reduces levels of the amino acid homocysteine, according to a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)-funded study. A high level of homocysteine appears to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
The study appears in the August 22 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This new report is based on data from the DASH trial, which found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods and low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol significantly and quickly lowers blood pressure. The diet also included whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts.
The DASH trial involved four sites and a coordinating center. The homocysteine results come from the Johns Hopkins University site in Baltimore, MD.
Homocysteine levels are affected by various factors, including intake of folic acid (or folate) and vitamins B6 and B12. In the trial, participants followed one of three diets-a control diet similar to what most Americans eat, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and the DASH diet. Compared with homocysteine levels of those on the control diet, homocysteine levels of those on the DASH diet were significantly lower, with levels of those on the fruits and vegetables diet being intermediate. Changes in the homocysteine levels were significantly associated with changes in folate levels.