People who follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet reap the benefits of improved cardiovascular health, and the results of a new study conducted by researchers at Duke University indicate that it may help to improve brain functioning, too.
The study, the results of which were published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, followed a total of 124 people. The men and women who participated all had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. The average age was 52 years old, and most of the group were at least 15 pounds overweight.
Participants were divided into three groups. One of the groups were instructed to follow the DASH diet. This eating plan includes fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Carbohydrates make up a large portion of the daily calories, and high-cholesterol foods are avoided.
The second group of participants in the study followed the DASH diet in conjunction with a program of regular aerobic exercise. They worked out three times a week for 30 minutes at a time, and the sessions were supervised by research staff. The third group in the study didn’t follow any particular diet or exercise routine.
Cognitive Ability Test Results
To measure how diet and exercise can affect a person’s mental functioning, the participants in the study were asked to perform certain tasks using a paper and pencil.
When the four-month study concluded, test results showed the participants who were in the group following the DASH diet in combination with aerobic exercise had an average increase in brain function of 30 percent.
The participants who followed the DASH diet in combination with exercise lost an average of 19 pounds during the four months they were involved in the study. Their systolic blood pressure (the top number of the blood pressure reading) was lowered by an average of 16 points, while the diastolic pressure (the bottom number on the reading) went down by an average of 10 points.