DASH, a Diet Designed for Hypertension, May Stave Off Type 2 in Whites

A South Carolina study has found that the DASH diet, originally designed to treat hypertension, is linked to a lower rate of type 2 diabetes in whites, but not in blacks or Hispanics.

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, moderately high in protein and low in total and saturated fat. The combination has been found to reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

The University of South Carolina research team decided to find out whether a DASH diet can also delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. They studied 862 people of differing ethnicities who had participated in a clinical study on the vascular effects of insulin resistance. In the five years following the study, one in six of the participants developed type 2.

Initially, the scientists found no more than a weak, statistically insignificant association between adherence to the DASH diet and prevention of type 2.  When they looked at participants by ethnicity, however, they found that the whites who followed the diet closely enjoyed a 69 percent reduced risk of acquiring type 2.

Nobody is certain why different ethnic groups run greater or lesser risks for diabetes. After all, every human being is genetically 99.9 percent similar to every other human being, no matter how far apart they might be in geography or kinship. The tiny genetic differences that do exist, however, are apparently enough to make some groups more susceptible to diabetes than others. 

The South Carolina researchers concluded that, at least for whites, adherence to DASH, with its emphasis on whole grains, nuts, and low-fat dairy, could be a welcome addition to the growing array of approaches aimed at preventing type 2.

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