Sticking to a DASH diet may help slow down weight gain for teen girls


The DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) is usually prescribed for adults to help them control their high blood pressure. But a study finds that the eating program may also help teen girls gain less weight.

The diet, which emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat and nonfat dairy foods, lean proteins, nuts and limited amounts of fats and sweets, is said to lower blood pressure in adults even without reducing salt intake.

The new study focused on 2,379 girls who were ages 9 or 10 at the beginning of the study and followed them for 10 years. The participants were socioeconomically and geographically mixed, and blacks made up more than half the group.


Researchers devised a scoring system to determine how closely the participants came to eating a DASH-like diet. Those who adhered most closely to the DASH plan also had the lowest increase in body mass index (BMI) over the course of the study and the lowest BMIs at the end of the study. The highest DASH diet scorers also on average got more physical activity and watched less television and played fewer video games.

Certain foods seemed to affect BMI. Subjects who ate two or more servings of fruit per day had the smallest rise in BMI over the study period, and also the lowest BMI scores at the end of the study. Those who consumed the most grains and consmed more low-fat dairy foods also showed lower BMI gains over the years.

But even those who scored the highest in fulfilling the DASH diet’s recommendations still fell short — those in the 95th percentile ate comparatively lower amounts of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products than DASH suggested, and added sugar consumption was 10 times higher than recommended. The DASH diet recommends eating four servings of fruit a day, and on average only 15% of girls 9 to 17 achieved that.

“This study is important,” said senior author Lynn Moore of Boston University Medical Center in a news release, “because it shows that a very simple dietary message focused primarily on increasing intakes of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products has the potential to reduce the risk of overweight and obesity in adolescent girls.”

The study was released Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.