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Study suggests DASH food plan may improve mental well-being along with lowering blood pressure

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) food plan has been shown to significantly lower blood pressure levels amongst hypertensive patients. Nevertheless, despite available evidence supporting the useful effects of the DASH food plan for physical health, only just a few studies have examined the psychological effects of this food plan.

In a recent study published within the journal Nutrition Reviews, researchers explore the effect of the DASH food plan on mental well-being.

Study: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) food plan and mental well-being: A scientific review. Image Credit: Wachiwit / Shutterstock.com

In regards to the study

Between May 2021 and July 2021, researchers performed an intensive seek for articles from PubMed, Web of Science, and PsycINFO databases. These databases were systematically searched as much as May 2021.

The searched terms included dietary approaches to stop hypertension or DASH food plan and mental health, depression, psychology, emotion, psychosocial, mood, anxiety, mental, quality of life, body image, eating disorders, affect, binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, eating disorders not otherwise specified, or EDNOS. 

Abstracts and titles of all searched articles were examined for eligibility. Studies that involved an intervention cohort of the DASH food plan or a rating estimating the compliance to the DASH food plan estimated a minimum of 1 relevant end result related to mental well-being, were interventional or observational studies, and were performed on human subjects were included in the present evaluation.


The ultimate sample consisted of 16 studies, 10 observational studies and 6 randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Of the ten observational studies, five were cross-sectional, 4 were longitudinal, and one was each cross-sectional and longitudinal. The sample size within the studies ranged from 36 to 19,270.

Not one of the RCTs assessed the incidence of clinically diagnosed depression. One observational study examined the correlation between DASH food plan compliance and the event of clinically diagnosed depression by studying longitudinal information of healthy adult residents of Spain and controlling for sex, age, socioeconomic variables, total energy intake, health behaviors, weight alterations, and personality traits of dependency and competitiveness. A weak positive correlation was noted between incident depression and the Dixon DASH index.

A nonlinear and U-shaped association was observed between clinically diagnosed depression and Fung’s, Gunther’s, and Mellen’s DASH food plan indices. Medium compliance to the DASH food plan estimated by these indexes was related to significantly lower hazard ratios of depression development.

When DASH food plan compliance was divided into two groups of high and low adherence, only Fung’s DASH index exhibited an inverse correlation with incident depression for less conservative and more conservative definitions.

One study revealed a negative correlation coefficient for the connection between depressive symptoms and the DASH food plan when examined by the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21) with none covariate adjustment. Two RCTs noted that the DASH food plan was related to a positive effect on mood and emotions.

In a single study wherein emotional symptoms were defined as “downhearted” and “unhappy” compared to their counterparts from the cohort, children from the DASH food plan cohort exhibited significant improvements of their emotional symptoms after controlling for sociodemographic variables, energy consumption, baseline values, and parental education and occupation.

Studies that assessed the connection between quality of life and the DASH food plan revealed conflicting findings. Two RCTs noted that the DASH food plan improved scores for the Subjective Symptoms Assessment Profile.

One study also reported that after the administration of the six-month intervention, DASH food plan participants significantly enhanced their quality of life in comparison with their counterparts from the control cohort who consumed their usual food plan.


The study findings showed that the DASH food plan can have a positive influence on mental well-being. Nevertheless, some findings were inconsistent, which might be accounted for by variations in assessment methods of the DASH food plan and outcomes related to mental health.

Future studies with effective methodological quality could confirm the positive effects of the DASH food plan on mental health, which, in turn, could help health practitioners design more comprehensive health techniques. A mixture of dietary and psychological perspectives is prone to improve overall well-being.

Journal reference:

  • Tan, J., Wang, C., & Tomiyama, A. J. (2023). Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) food plan and mental well-being: A scientific review. Nutrition Reviews. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuad038
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