As individuals age, maintaining muscle mass is an important part of mitigating the risk of injuries affecting independence. Diet is a key component of this, with protein consumption being especially important. One intervention, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), has been noted as a health-improving diet across populations. A recent study reported on the use of the DASH diet in promoting muscle mass and a balanced body composition in older adults. The results were published in Nutrients.

During the 12-week study, 36 adults aged 65 years and older participated in a controlled-feeding dietary intervention combining DASH parameters with the consumption of lean red meat. Food was purchased locally and prepared in a food laboratory. Participants consumed at least 1 meal on-site with the rest of the meals, snacks, and beverages provided as to-go items. Data regarding body composition, muscle fitness, and gait and balance were measured at five time points: 0, 3, 6, 9, and 12 weeks, with follow-up visits in the morning.

Researchers found that there were significant changes in body composition throughout the study period. Fat percentage and BMI decreased in all participants. Notably, 32 participants showed measurements indicating obesity at baseline. However, at the time of the study’s conclusion, 31% of participants had reduced enough body mass to be categorized as overweight or normal weight. Overall, fat loss was much greater than loss of muscle mass. Blood pressure also decreased among all participants. Movement ability such as sit/stand measurement increased as well, and gait and balance were maintained over the course of the study.

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These results confirm that DASH with daily inclusion of lean red meat can have beneficial outcomes in adults aged 65 years and older. Not only did participants show reduction in body mass, but also maintained existing muscle mass and saw additional benefits such as lowered blood pressure. Despite the lack of a comparison group and the small, relatively homogeneous sample size, these early results suggest that a DASH diet could be effective for managing body composition and other markers of health in older adults.


Perry CA, Van Guilder GP, Kauffman A, Hossain M. A Calorie-Restricted DASH Diet Reduces Body Fat and Maintains Muscle Strength in Obese Older Adults. Nutrients. 2020; 12(1):102.