In a Swedish study, among 74,961 adults 45 to 83 years old, those who ate low-fat dairy foods had a 12 per cent lower risk of stroke and a 13 per cent 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," Susanna Larsson, the study's first author from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said.
"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," Larsson said.
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," she said.
The study has been published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.