Listen To Your Mother: An Apple A Day--Not A Cheeseburger--Keeps The Doctor Away

April 17, 1997

American mothers' often-ignored advice to eat fruits and vegetables, not cheeseburgers and doughnuts, now appears to substantially and quickly lower blood pressure, according to results of a study performed at Johns Hopkins and several other centers.

The findings offer more evidence that healthy diets can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, the nation's first- and third-leading killers, respectively. About 40 million Americans have high blood pressure, which is particularly common among people over 50 and a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Results of the study, supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, are published in the April 17 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"We already know that weight control and reduced salt and alcohol intake are important steps to prevent and treat hypertension," says Lawrence Appel, M.D., lead author and an associate professor of medicine at Hopkins. "Our findings show that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and reduced in saturated and total fat offers an additional nutritional approach."

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study included 459 adults with high-normal or stage 1-mild hypertension (systolic blood press of less than 160 mm Hg and diastolic pressure of 80-95 mm Hg). Researchers examined the impact on blood pressure of whole dietary patterns rather than individual nutrients or supplements.

Participants ate one of three diets for eight weeks: a control diet low in fruits, vegetables and dairy products and with a fat content typical of the American diet; a diet high in fruits and vegetables; or a "combination" diet low in saturated and total fat and high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

Among the 133 participants with high blood pressure, the combination diet reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 11.4 mm Hg and 5.5 mm Hg, respectively. Systolic blood pressure, the higher of the two numbers, occurs when the heart is contracting; diastolic blood pressure occurs when the heart relaxes between contractions.

"These blood-pressure reductions are clinically important because they are similar to those reductions commonly achieved through use of one anti-hypertensive medication," Appel says.

Among the 326 participants with high-normal blood pressure, the combination diet reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 3.5 mm Hg and 2.1 mm Hg, respectively.

"These reductions are important from a public health perspective because they may prevent hypertension from occurring," says Appel.

Among all participants, the diet high in fruits and vegetables reduced blood pressure, but to a lesser extent than the combination diet. The reductions occurred within two weeks of the start of the study. The blood pressure reductions were independent of body weight, salt intake and alcohol consumption, which were held constant.

The DASH combination diet provided nine to 10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables (about twice the usual amount in Americans' diets) and three daily servings of low-fat dairy products (about double the usual amount in Americans' diets). More information about the DASH diet is available on the World Wide Web at

Other investigators and institutions in the study were Thomas J. Moore, M.D., at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Thomas M. Vogt, M.D., at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Laura P. Svetkey, M.D., at Duke University Medical Center, George A. Bray, M.D., at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, and Eva Obarzanek at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.


Media contact: John Cramer

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions' news releases are available on a PRE-EMBARGOED basis on EurekAlert at and from the Office of Communications and Public Affairs' direct e-mail news release service. To enroll, call 410-955-4288 or send e-mail to or

On a POST-EMBARGOED basis find them at,, Newswise at or on CompuServe in the SciNews-MedNews library of the Journalism Forum under file extension ".JHM", Quadnet at or ScienceDaily at

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Related Blood Pressure Articles from Brightsurf:

Children who take steroids at increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clots
Children who take oral steroids to treat asthma or autoimmune diseases have an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood clots, according to Rutgers researchers.

High blood pressure treatment linked to less risk for drop in blood pressure upon standing
Treatment to lower blood pressure did not increase and may decrease the risk of extreme drops in blood pressure upon standing from a sitting position.

Changes in blood pressure control over 2 decades among US adults with high blood pressure
National survey data were used to examine how blood pressure control changed overall among U.S. adults with high blood pressure between 1999-2000 and 2017-2018 and by age, race, insurance type and access to health care.

Transient increase in blood pressure promotes some blood vessel growth
Blood vessels are the body's transportation system, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells and whisking away waste.

Effect of reducing blood pressure medications on blood pressure control in older adults
Whether the amount of blood pressure medications taken by older adults could be reduced safely and without a significant change in short-term blood pressure control was the objective of this randomized clinical trial that included 534 adults 80 and older.

Brain blood flow sensor discovery could aid treatments for high blood pressure & dementia
A study led by researchers at UCL has discovered the mechanism that allows the brain to monitor its own blood supply, a finding in rats which may help to find new treatments for human conditions including hypertension (high blood pressure) and dementia.

Here's something that will raise your blood pressure
The apelin receptor (APJ) has been presumed to play an important role in the contraction of blood vessels involved in blood pressure regulation.

New strategy for treating high blood pressure
The key to treating blood pressure might lie in people who are 'resistant' to developing high blood pressure even when they eat high salt diets, shows new research published today in Experimental Physiology.

Arm cuff blood pressure measurements may fall short for predicting heart disease risk in some people with resistant high blood pressure
A measurement of central blood pressure in people with difficult-to-treat high blood pressure could help reduce risk of heart disease better than traditional arm cuff readings for some patients, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.

Heating pads may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure when lying down
In people with supine hypertension due to autonomic failure, a condition that increases blood pressure when lying down, overnight heat therapy significantly decreased systolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.

Read More: Blood Pressure News and Blood Pressure Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to