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WELL diet more effective than regular low-fat diet in reducing blood pressure
  NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A diet with specified targets for fruit, vegetable and dairy intake -- the WELL diet -- is more effective than a typical low-fat diet in reducing blood pressure, Australian investigators report.
Dr. Caryl A. Nowson and colleagues at Deakin University in Burwood enrolled 54 male volunteers who completed their study. As reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition for May, the subjects had a body mass index between 25 and 35, with systolic blood pressure of 120 mm Hg or higher and diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm Hg or higher. Approximately one third were on antihypertensive medication.
Twenty-seven were randomly assigned to the WELL diet, which stipulates four or more daily servings of fruit, four or more daily servings of vegetables, three or more daily servings of nonfat dairy products, along with fish at least three times per week, legumes at least once per week and unsalted nuts and seeds four times per week. Red meat is restricted to no more than two servings per week.
Another 27 subjects, who were randomly assigned to the low-fat diet group, were advised to limit intake of high-energy foods, reduce saturated fat intake, choose mainly plant-based foods, consume nonfat or reduced fat dairy products, limit cheese and ice cream to twice per week, select lean meat and avoid fried food.
Subjects in both groups were requested to limit caffeine-containing drinks to no more than four per day and alcoholic drinks to no more than four per week. All were advised to participate in moderate intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on all or most days of the week, and to monitor their blood pressure at home.
The rate of weight loss did not differ significantly between groups (5% to 6% over 12 weeks). However, systolic blood pressure was decreased significantly more in the WELL group than in the low-fat diet group, 5.5% versus 1.4% (p = 0.005), as was diastolic blood pressure (6.4% versus 1.0%, p = 0.001).
Food questionnaires showed that only the subjects in the WELL group reported higher intake of dairy products and vegetables compared with baseline (p = 0.001 for both). The authors also observed greater reductions in fat, saturated fat and sodium in the WELL group, and increases in percent of energy from protein and from carbohydrates, as well as higher intake of potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus than in the low-fat group.
"It appears...that a diet combining these nutrient changes -- eg, lower sodium and saturated fat and higher potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus -- within a diet and physical activity pattern that induces negative energy balance achieves a greater reduction in blood pressure than does a low-fat diet," Dr. Nowson's group concludes.
Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:983-989.
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