University of South Carolina researcher: Study examines how diet affects hypertension in youth with diabetes

February 4, 2009

COLUMBIA, Sc – February 4, 2009 – Young people with diabetes who follow a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products can lower their risk for hypertension, particularly those who have Type 1 diabetes, according to a study co-authored by a University of South Carolina researcher.

Dr. Angela Liese of the university’s Arnold School of Public Health is listed as co-author of the study that appears in the January issue of the journal Hypertension looked at the effectiveness of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet in youth with diabetes. It is the first study to focus on the DASH diet among youth and the first to examine the association between DASH and hypertension among people with diabetes, said Liese.

“The DASH diet was developed to help people lower their blood pressure without medication,” said Liese, director of the Arnold School’s Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities.

“The 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for America explicitly recommends the DASH diet as an example of a healthy eating plan,” she said. “Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health are promoting the DASH eating plan. This diet is highly regarded as successful in helping many adults lower their blood pressure.”

However, researchers wanted to know whether the DASH diet was associated with lower rates of hypertension among young people with diabetes.

“High blood pressure among youth with diabetes often leads to serious chronic health problems throughout their lives, including cardiovascular disease,” said Anke Guenther, the study’s lead author and a researcher working with Liese. “It is critical that we examine which dietary factors can lower or prevent hypertension among young people.”

The study’s 2,830 participants, ranging in age from 10 – 22, were drawn from the national SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study, a comprehensive research program that is examining the prevalence and incidence of diabetes among youth. As many as 7 percent of the SEARCH participants already have hypertension.

Researchers examined the eight DASH food groups – vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, meat, nuts/seeds/legumes, fats/oils, sweets – in the diets of youth participating in SEARCH. Although the majority of participants were white, the study also had a good representation of blacks and Hispanics.

The study found that youth with Type 1 diabetes who more closely adhered to the DASH diet had a lower prevalence of hypertension than those whose DASH adherence was lower, Liese said.

“This is hopeful news for young people with Type 1 diabetes,” she said. “It shows that we should pay more attention to diet and nutrition among youth. It also suggests that we may need larger clinical trials to test the effectiveness of the DASH diet, and we definitely need further study of diet and nutrition interventions for youth with Type 2 diabetes.”

SEARCH is being conducted at sites in Ohio, Washington, South Carolina, Colorado, Hawaii and California. It is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.