The DASH diet is regularly advised by physicians to combat hypertension (high blood pressure). Now experts are saying the program could help individuals suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Should you try it? And if you do, can it really help? Here’s what we found out.
What Is the DASH Diet?
DASH is an easy-to-remember acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Although its primary purpose is to reverse high blood pressure, it is reported to help prevent the condition from developing in the first place. This makes it, according to research, a healthy plan for a majority of the population, but most won’t turn to such a restrictive regimen without a good reason – such as a diagnosis or concern over developing a negative health condition.
On the surface, DASH appears to be basic good sense, but on closer inspection, it does have a specific regimen, including:
- Moderated sodium levels (with an upper daily cap)
- 6-8 servings of grains daily
- 4-5 servings of vegetables daily
- 4-5 servings of fruit daily
- lean meat, poultry and fish
- nuts, seeds and legumes
- restricted sweets intake
- specific fats and oils intake
The above recommendations do, barring a specific dietary or health concern, make sense to a majority of the population. And the numbers don’t lie: DASH can have a positive effect on health, particularly on a hypertensive condition.
How DASH and NAFLD Are Connected
If DASH is an anti-hypertension regimen, why are experts beginning to recommend it for NAFLD patients?
Actually, the tie-in is clear when each condition is looked at closely. Because NAFLD is more prevalent among overweight individuals (though not exclusively) and can have connections to Metabolic Syndrome, it shares similarities to issues that can encourage a hypertensive condition.
This means lifestyle changes that influence one may help the other as well, experts claim.
Should You Try DASH?
With your doctor’s approval, there’s really no reason NOT to try DASH, most medical experts agree.
However, beware: “servings” can mean different things to different people, and the recommendations could add up even when followed exactly.
For example, a serving of fruit isn’t necessarily a whole piece of fruit, and if you’re attempting to lose weight on DASH, accidentally doubling your fruit portions could add up, particularly if the fruits are higher in calories, such as bananas.
The grains recommendation has also come under fire recently as potentially excessive, with the grains-heavy Food Pyramid on its way out and the Healthy Eating Plate being touted as a more reasonable goal by certain dietitians and doctors.
Your bottom line: Ask your doctor whether NASH could help you. If so, make sure you’re counting any macros you need to, such as calories, fat or carbs (or any combination of these). Continue with positive lifestyle changes, including getting plenty of quality rest, exercising and reducing stress levels wherever possible.
DASH isn’t right for everyone, but with evidence mounting that it could help prevent or treat NAFLD and related conditions, it may be worth your while to look into this option toward better health.