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Vol. LXVI, No. 4
February 14, 2014
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NIH Diet Plans Named Best, Once Again

Maybe the “N” in NIH should stand for nutrition.

Two diet plans developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute have once again ranked atop a list of healthy diets created by a panel of nutrition and wellness experts overseen by U.S. News and World Report. This may be no surprise since NIH’s location in Bethesda, home of more than 300 restaurants, makes food a local preoccupation.

For the fourth successive year, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been named the best overall diet. DASH was also deemed the optimal plan for those with diabetes and was noted in particular for its “nutritional completeness and safety.”

The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet placed second, for the second year in a row, in the category of best overall diets. This plan, noted for preventing cardiovascular disease, emphasizes consumption of foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. Both DASH and TLC have topped U.S. News’s rankings for the 4 years the magazine has rated diets.

“Sit less and move more is a good prescription for everyone,” said Jody Engel of NIH’s Office of Disease Prevention.
“Sit less and move more is a good prescription for everyone,” said Jody Engel of NIH’s Office of Disease Prevention.

One NIH nutrition expert explains that the DASH plan emphasizes eating foods good for you and avoiding ones that have little nutritional value. Additionally, there is no safety risk associated with the diet, according to Jody Engel of NIH’s Office of Disease Prevention.

“With the DASH diet, we are suggesting that people eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, as well as poultry, fish, meat, nuts and beans,” said Engel. “Foods you should avoid or keep to a minimum include added fats, red meats and sugar-laden foods and drinks.” Portion size is also important, as is obtaining the proper amount of nutrients, she added.

The TLC diet focuses on promoting cardiovascular health. The low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet aims at reducing blood cholesterol to a level that decreases the risk of heart disease. It suggests that daily cholesterol intake be kept below 200 milligrams and that sodium intake be limited to 2,400 milligrams per day. But diet is only one aspect. “The plan actually has three parts—diet, physical activity and weight management,” said Engel, stressing that all are critical.

Evidence backs the two diets’ efficacy and safety. “Since the 1990’s, the benefits of both diet plans have been supported by numerous large research studies,” said Shanna Bernstein, a Clinical Center dietitian. “These diets have been promoted by NHLBI and the National Cholesterol Education Program, among other professional organizations. Though each of the plans has a slightly different focus,” she continued, “both emphasize foods that we know to be healthy such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while discouraging intake of high-fat meats and foods high in sodium.”

She said positive results seen in research studies by those who adhere strictly to the diets suggest the regimens are applicable to the overall American population, regardless of race or body composition.

“‘Diet’ has become a four-letter word for many,” said Lenora Johnson, communication director at NHLBI. “Yet, if we shift our focus from that which is quick or easy or fun to what research tells us really works, diets can be rewarding and life-changing experiences and synonymous with other four-letter words—live or life.”

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes)
Two diet plans—DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes)—developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute have once again ranked atop a list of healthy diets created by a panel of nutrition and wellness experts overseen by U.S. News and World Report.

While neither diet gives carte blanche to cookies dipped in milk or large bowls of ice cream, both DASH and TLC potentially offer some degree of health benefit to almost everyone, especially when coupled with regular physical activity, according to the nutrition pros.

Notes Engel, “Exercise will help with weight reduction. It does not have to be a planned workout session. Sit less and move more is a good prescription for everyone.”

Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH is available for download at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf; a 6-page summary can be downloaded at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/dash_brief.pdf.

To download Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.pdf.


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