DASH Diet Fuels the Brain
Following DASH Diet Improves Brain Activity in Overweight Adults
WebMD News Archive
March 8, 2010 -- A diet designed to help lower blood pressure may also boost
A new study shows the DASH diet in combination with regular exercise
improved mental activity by 30% in overweight adults compared with those who
didn’t diet or exercise. The DASH diet was developed by the Dietary Approaches
to Stop Hypertension study and emphasizes low-fat dairy products and
low-cholesterol foods as well as carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables.
Researchers say high blood pressure affects about 50% of adults aged 60 and
older and increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of mental
decline like dementia.
Lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise, have been shown to lower
blood pressure and improve brain activity, but they say this is the first study
to look at the combined effects of diet and exercise on brainpower in
overweight people with high blood pressure.
“Modifying lifestyles to achieve a healthy body weight, getting regular
exercise, and eating properly not only have physical health benefits, but
mental health benefits,” researcher James Blumenthal, PhD, professor of
psychology and neuroscience at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.,
says in a news release. “This study has significant implications for slowing
down or even reversing age-related cognitive deficits, which may even have
greater impact among people vulnerable to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s
Diet for the Brain and Body
In the study, published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart
Association, researchers divided 124 overweight men and women into three
groups. One group followed the DASH diet in combination with an aerobic
exercise program (30 minutes of exercise, three times a week), another followed
the DASH diet alone, and the third did not diet or exercise for four
The participants completed a series of tests to assess their brainpower and
mental skills, including manipulation of ideas and concepts and planning, at
the beginning and end of the study.
The results showed that people who followed the DASH diet in combination
with aerobic exercise experienced a 30% improvement in brain function as well
as lower blood pressure, improved their cardiovascular fitness, and lost an
average of 19 pounds by the end of the study. On average, they lowered their
systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by 16
points and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) by 10 points.