After analyzing this large set of data, the researchers noted the following:
Specifically, cerebral infarction, in which blood flow to a region of the brain is blocked, was the type of stroke prevented by eating low-fat dairy. The less common hemorrhagic stroke, in which a blood vessel breaks and there is bleeding in a region of the brain, was not affected by any dairy intake.
“Findings from this large study suggest that low-fat dairy food consumption is inversely associated with risk of stroke,” the study’s authors said. They pointed out that the benefit they observed might be due to reductions in blood pressure, since some previous studies have found that blood pressure is lower in people eating high amounts of low-fat dairy.
In Sweden, where this study took place, people consume lots of dairy. Even in the group consuming the least low-fat dairy, the average amount consumed was more than two servings per day. Therefore, this study could not show whether eating low-fat dairy is more protective than not eating dairy at all.
Many of the factors that contribute to stroke risk are within our control. Choosing low fat when it comes to dairy is just one of a number of things you can do to reduce your risk. Here are some others:
For more information about diet and stroke prevention, consider the well-established DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. A combined low-sodium and DASH diet has been shown to be effective for reducing the risks of diabetes, some types of cancer, and heart disease, including stroke. You can find more information at the National Institutes of Health website.
(Stroke 2012;doi: 10.1161/strokeaha.111.641944)