Dash Diet Helps Girls to Maintain a Healthy Weight

This study analyzed the effects of the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) dietary pattern on weight gain in girls during adolescence. The data for this study was obtained from the National Growth and Health Study that was carried out in three American cities from 1987-88. This study included 2,327 girls aged 9-10 years. They were observed for nine years and their detailed dietary information and body mass indices were recorded annually. Their diet was compared with the DASH recommended dietary plan. It was found that those girls whose diet was the closest to the DASH recommendations showed the least increase in body mass index (BMI) over the years.

Obesity is a major health hazard among Americans, with 17% children and 67% adults who are either obese or overweight. Obesity is linked with an increased incidence of diabetes, heart diseases and other risk factors that lead to a premature death. Different eating patterns affect weight gain in different ways. One such dietary pattern is the DASH plan, which recommends eating foods that are low in saturated fat and carbohydrates and are high in fibers, proteins, and minerals. This diet has positive effects on patients with hypertension. The current study analyzed the effect of this diet pattern on weight loss and BMI. This diet is safe for children and has been found to prevent the gain of excess weight in adolescents.


  • This study included 2,327 girls between ages nine and ten. They were observed for nine years.
  • The girls’ heights and weights were measured annually to estimate their BMI.
  • The girls were trained by a nutritionist to measure and record the sizes of the portions they ate by using standard household objects for measurement. Data on their diets was collected with the help of a three-day diet record that included two weekdays and one weekend day, during the nine-year examination period. The data was then analyzed using the University of Minnesota Nutrition Data System in order to estimate the calorie, micronutrient, and macronutrient consumption of each participant. The race, family earnings, exercise habits, and education of family members were also recorded.
  • The average daily consumption of each food group was determined. Based on previous guidelines, the food groups were given a score. The scores were then added to get a total DASH score.


  • Higher DASH scores were associated with higher food intake. Girls from lower income groups or from black ethnicities were more likely to have a lower DASH score.
  • Those with a higher DASH score also had higher physical activity and lower sedentary habits like watching TV.
  • Most of the participants with a higher DASH score did not achieve the recommended levels of intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They were also found to consume 10 times higher amounts of sugar.
  • Two or more servings of fruits resulted in the least increase in BMI. The slowest increase in BMI was also observed in those with the highest consumption of whole grain and low-fat dairy products. Differing servings of vegetables made no difference to the BMI of the participants.

Shortcomings/Next steps
The advantages of food groups that were consumed in low amounts were lost in this study. Artificially sweetened drinks, which are a major cause of weight gain, are not considered in this study, as they are not recommended in the DASH food plan. The analysis is based on self-reporting by the participants, which could have been biased and could have affected the results of this study.

As observed in this study, which is based on data collected over nine years, following the recommendations of the DASH plan resulted in lower chances of unhealthy weight gain in adolescent girls. The study shows that a healthy BMI results from the consumption of specific food groups, like fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, while differing vegetable consumption showed no effect on weight gain. It was believed earlier that a high consumption of dairy products was associated with weight gain. Contrary to this belief, the current study shows that proteins in low-fat dairy products satisfy hunger, thereby reducing excess food intake.

For More Information:
Use of a DASH Dietary Plan to Predict Excess Weight Gain in Adolescent Girls
Publication Journal: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, June 2011
By Jonathan P B Berz; Martha R Singer
From Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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