DASH-style diet may help prevent excess weight gain in adolescents

June 17, 2011

In a longitudinal cohort study, adolescent girls who ate a diet high in fruits, whole grains, and low-fat diary products had smaller gains in body mass index (BMI) over 10 years than girls with other dietary patterns.

In a longitudinal cohort study, adolescent girls who ate a diet high in fruits, whole grains, and low-fat diary products had smaller gains in body mass index (BMI) over 10 years than girls with other dietary patterns.

Researchers examined the effects of adherence to a Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH)-style eating plan, originally studied as a treatment for hypertension in adults, on BMI in a racially diverse sample of adolescent girls. They collected data on 2,327 girls enrolled in the National Growth and Health Study at 9 or 10 years of age and followed up annually for 10 years.

Study participants were not given specific instructions about the DASH diet but were trained to record detailed dietary information and were given a DASH food-group score based on consumption of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, total and whole grains, lean meats, and nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Higher adherence to a DASH-style diet was associated with a consistently lower BMI between the ages of 9 and 19 years after controlling for nondietary factors. Girls in the highest quintile of DASH scores (ie, highest adherence) had the smallest gains in BMI during follow-up and the lowest BMI at the end of the study. At age 19, girls in the lowest quintile had a mean BMI that was greater than the threshold for overweight, as defined by the 85th percentile for weight. In particular, high consumption of fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products resulted in less weight gain.

“We hope that the simple message of increasing fresh fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy (in addition to the other components of DASH) in replacement of less healthy alternatives will be an easy-to-deliver message,” lead researcher Jonathan P. Berz, MD, MSc, wrote in an e-mail message; he acknowledged, however, that adherence may be a challenge.

Berz JP, Singer MR, Guo X, Daniels SR, Moore LL. Use of a DASH food group score to predict excess weight gain in adolescent girls in the National Growth and Health Study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011;165(6):540-546.