Milk and Cheese Consumption Associated with Slightly Lower Risk of Stroke

Since milk, an animal product, contains saturated fats and cholesterol, which are often said to increase MI and stroke risks, it has sometimes been asserted that increasing consumption of dairy foods such as milk and cheese would increase stroke risk. Indeed, the Mediterranean diet has been cited as a good diet partly because it limits not just red meat but decreases dairy food consumption compared to diets associated with a higher vascular disease risk.

However, a new meta-analytic study, just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, shows a small but consistent decrease in stroke risk with increasing consumption of milk and cheese foods, in both Western and Asian populations.



J Am Heart Assoc. 2016; 5: e002787

originally published May 20, 2016

doi: 10.1161/JAHA.115.002787

Dairy Consumption and Risk of Stroke: A Systematic Review and Updated Dose–Response Meta‐Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies

Janette de Goede, PhD; Sabita S. Soedamah‐Muthu, PhD; An Pan, PhD; Lieke Gijsbers, MSc; Johanna M. Geleijnse, PhD


Background A higher milk consumption may be associated with a lower stroke risk. We conducted a comprehensive systematic review and dose–response meta‐analysis of milk and other dairy products in relation to stroke risk.

Methods and Results Through a systematic literature search, prospective cohort studies of dairy foods and incident stroke in stroke‐free adults were identified. Random‐effects meta‐analyses with summarized dose–response data were performed, taking into account sources of heterogeneity, and spline models were used to systematically investigate nonlinearity of the associations. We included 18 studies with 8 to 26 years of follow‐up that included 762 414 individuals and 29 943 stroke events. An increment of 200 g of daily milk intake was associated with a 7% lower risk of stroke (relative risk 0.93; 95% CI 0.88–0.98; P=0.004; I2=86%). Relative risks were 0.82 (95% CI 0.75–0.90) in East Asian and 0.98 (95% CI 0.95–1.01) in Western countries (median intakes 38 and 266 g/day, respectively) with less but still considerable heterogeneity within the continents. Cheese intake was marginally inversely associated with stroke risk (relative risk 0.97; 95% CI 0.94–1.01 per 40 g/day). Risk reductions were maximal around 125 g/day for milk and from 25 g/day onwards for cheese. Based on a limited number of studies, high‐fat milk was directly associated with stroke risk. No associations were found for yogurt, butter, or total dairy.

Conclusions Milk and cheese consumption were inversely associated with stroke risk. Results should be placed in the context of the observed heterogeneity. Future epidemiological studies should provide more details about dairy types, including fat content. In addition, the role of dairy in Asian populations deserves further attention.

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