Adherence to the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) dietary pattern and mental health in Iranian university students

  • Shiva Faghih
  • Siavash Babajafari
  • Afsaneh Mirzaei
  • Masoumeh AkhlaghiEmail author
Original Contribution



Examining the association between adherence to the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) dietary pattern and mental health in Iranian university students.


This cross-sectional study was conducted among 240 university students (mean age 21.5 years; 86.7% female). Mental health was evaluated using validated Persian versions of the 12-item general health questionnaire (GHQ-12) and the 21-item depression, anxiety, and stress scale (DASS-21). The lower the subjects’ scores on these questionnaires, the better their mental health. Usual past-year dietary intakes were assessed by a validated 168-item semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. The DASH score was computed based on energy-adjusted intakes of eight major dietary components emphasized or minimized in the DASH pattern. The higher the DASH score of a subject, the greater his/her adherence to the DASH pattern.


The Pearson’s correlation coefficients of DASH score with GHQ-12 total score, DASS-21 total score, and DASS-21 depression, anxiety, and stress subscale scores were − 0.431, − 0.441, − 0.434, − 0.325, and − 0.408, respectively (all P < 0.001). Compared to those in the lowest tertile, subjects in the highest tertile of DASH score had lower means of GHQ-12 total score (mean difference − 4.6; P < 0.001), DASS-21 total score (mean difference − 9.1; P < 0.001), and DASS-21 depression, anxiety, and stress subscale scores (mean differences for depression, anxiety, and stress − 3.6, − 2.4, and − 3.2, respectively; all P < 0.001).


The findings indicate that greater adherence to the DASH dietary pattern is associated with better mental health in Iranian university students. However, prospective studies of sufficient methodological quality are needed to confirm these findings.


Diet Mental health Iran University Students 



The present work was financially supported by the Nutrition Research Center, School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran (Grant number: 92-01-87-6930). The authors would like to thank the participants for their enthusiastic collaboration.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

The ethics board of the Nutrition Research Center, School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran, approved the study protocol (reference number: 92-01-87-6930), and written informed consents were obtained from participants prior to their inclusion in the study. All procedures followed in the present study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and regional) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1964 and all subsequent revisions [34].


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shiva Faghih
    • 1
  • Siavash Babajafari
    • 2
  • Afsaneh Mirzaei
    • 2
  • Masoumeh Akhlaghi
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Community Nutrition, School of Nutrition and Food SciencesShiraz University of Medical SciencesShirazIran
  2. 2.Nutrition Research Center, School of Nutrition and Food SciencesShiraz University of Medical SciencesShirazIran

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