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Health - Severe Hypertension

Eating Low-Fat Dairy Foods May Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

Tuesday, Apr 24 2012


If you eat low-fat dairy foods, you may be reducing your risk of stroke.

In a Swedish study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, people who drank low-fat milk and ate low-fat yogurt and cheese 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 percent lower risk of stroke and a 13 percent lower risk of ischemic 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 ischemic, 583 hemorrhagic 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, Ph.D., the study’s first author and associate professor of epidemiology in the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, National Institute of Environmental Medicine, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Low-fat dairy products might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. At the same time, some of previous research has already stated that high level of dairy foods in the diet may reduce the risk of obesity or developing insulin resistance syndrome. Dr. Simin Liu of the University of California concluded a study and found that the benefit of a high intake of low-fat dairy foods on type 2 diabetes risk was independent of dietary calcium and vitamin D. The journal “Diabetes Care” has published the report. However, Liu argued that additional researches are necessary to confirm the findings before increasing dairy consumption to prevention of type 2 diabetes.

“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.”

The benefits of low-fat dairy foods are likely due to the vitamins and minerals they contain: calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin D.

“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.

Low-fat dairy food is one part of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet, which reduces blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke.

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 said.

Co-authors are Jarmo Virtamo, M.D., and Alicja Woik, DMSc. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

The Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research and the Swedish Research Council funded the study.

The American Heart Association offers information on Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations and Milk Products. For information on stroke visit

Diet has an important role in the primary prevention of hypertension. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial has shown that a dietary pattern rich in fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and with reduced total and saturated fat (the DASH diet) can be effective in the prevention of hypertension. This pattern was more effective than was a diet rich in fruit and vegetables in which dairy consumption was low. However, the DASH study was conducted in a controlled setting with a short follow-up (8 wk), and it was not specifically designed to assess the individual effects of each element of the protective dietary pattern.

Nonetheless, substantial epidemiologic and clinical data exist that show that a long-term high consumption of fruit and vegetables, one of the main components of the DASH diet, is inversely associated with blood pressure (BP) levels independent of other dietary factors. However, the relation between dairy consumption, another important building block of the DASH diet, and BP is not so clear. Some prospective studies have found a beneficial relation between dairy consumption and the incidence of hypertension or a change in BP, but this association was only evidenced in young adults and in children. On the other hand, dairy consumption has been associated with a higher cardiovascular disease mortality risk in postmenopausal women, whereas the nutritional intervention in the Oslo study, which was mainly focused on reducing whole-fat dairy consumption, was associated with a lower risk of coronary events. In addition to this apparent inconsistency in epidemiologic results, no prospective studies have assessed the relation between dairy consumption and the incidence of hypertension in persons in Mediterranean countries where intake of fat, particularly monounsaturated fatty acids, is high and where, perhaps, results from the DASH trial could not be directly applied. The objective of the present study was to prospectively assess the potential association between dairy consumption, particularly low-fat dairy products, and the risk of hypertension in a Mediterranean population.

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at .


NR12—1058 (Stroke/Larsson)
SOURCE: American Heart Association

Provided by Armina Hypertension Association

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