In a Swedish study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, people who consumed low-fat dairy products during a 10-year follow-up period had a lower risk of stroke compared to those who consumed full-fat dairy foods.
Among 74,961 adults (45 to 83 years old), those who ate low-fat dairy foods had a 12% lower risk of stroke and a 13% lower risk of ischaemic stroke than those who ate high-fat dairy foods.
Participants were free of heart disease, stroke and cancer at the start of the study. All completed a 96-item food and beverage questionnaire to determine dietary habits. Food and drink consumption frequency was divided into eight categories, ranging from never to four servings per day.
During the 10-year follow-up, 4,089 strokes occurred (1,680 in women and 2,409 in men): 3,159 ischaemic, 583 haemorrhagic and 347 unspecified strokes.
“This is the largest study to date to examine the association between consumption of total, low-fat, full-fat and specific dairy foods and the risk of stroke in adult men and women,” said Susanna Larsson, the study’s first author and associate professor of Epidemiology, Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, National Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. “From a public health perspective, if people consume more low-fat dairy foods rather than high-fat dairy foods, they will benefit from a reduced risk of stroke and other positive health outcomes.”
“It is possible that vitamin D in low-fat dairy foods may explain, in part, the observed lowered risk of stroke in this study because of its potential effect on blood pressure,” Larsson said.
Northern Europeans and North Americans traditionally consume much more dairy foods than other global populations. So switching to low-fat dairy products could impact stroke risk for millions of people, Larsson said.
More research on the link between low-fat dairy consumption and risk of stroke is needed, Larsson concluded.