Potential Cardiometabolic Health Benefits of Full-Fat Dairy: The Evidence Base

Kristin M. Hirahatake, Arne Astrup, James O. Hill, Joanne L. Slavin, David B. Allison, Kevin C. Maki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Since their inception in 1980, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have promoted low- or fat-free dairy foods. Removing fat from dairy does not reduce putatively beneficial nutrients per serving, including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Additionally, links between saturated fat and dietary cholesterol intakes with cardiovascular disease risk have helped to sustain the view that low-fat dairy foods should be recommended. Emerging evidence shows that the consumption of full-fat dairy foods has a neutral or inverse association with adverse cardiometabolic health outcomes, including atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and associated risk factors. Thus, although low-fat dairy is a practical, practice-based recommendation, its superiority compared with full-fat dairy is not obviously supported by results from recent prospective cohort studies or intervention trials. To evaluate the emerging science on full-fat dairy, a group of nutrition experts convened to summarize and discuss the scientific evidence regarding the health effects of consuming full-fat dairy foods. Future studies should focus on full-fat dairy foods (milk, yogurt, and cheese) in the context of recommended dietary patterns and consider meal composition and metabolic phenotype in assessing the relation between full-fat dairy consumption and cardiometabolic health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-547
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Author disclosures: KMH has received funding from the National Dairy Council to coordinate author contributions and to write the article. She has received honoraria for serving as an expert third-party reviewer for the Dairy Council of California. She was an affiliate of the University of California, Irvine, during the production of this review and is now a contract employee of Allergan plc. AA has received financial support from the Danish Dairy Foundation; Global Dairy Platform; Arla Foods Amba, Denmark; and the European Milk Foundation for projects conducted at the University of Copenhagen exploring the effects of dairy on human health. AA has received travel expenses and honoraria in connection with meetings and lectures from Danone, Arla Foods, European Milk Forum, and the Global Dairy Platform. JOH has active research support from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and from the NIH. He has received honoraria and travel expenses from serving on scientific advisory boards for the Milk Producers Educational Program (Milk PEP) and General Mills. He is an unpaid member of the International Life Sciences Institute North America Board of Trustees. JLS has active research grant support from Nexira, Taiyo, and Blue Prairie. She serves on the scientific advisory boards for Tate and Lyle and Atkins Nutritionals. DBA has received personal payments or promises for the same from the following: American Society for Nutrition; American Statistical Association; Biofortis; Columbia University; Fish & Richardson, PC; Frontiers Publishing; Henry Stewart Talks; IKEA; Indiana University; Laura and John Arnold Foundation; Johns Hopkins University; Law Offices of Ronald Marron; MD Anderson Cancer Center; Medical College of Wisconsin; NIH; Sage Publishing; The Obesity Society; Tomasik, Kotin, & Kasserman LLC; University of Alabama at Birmingham; University of Miami; Nestle; and WW (formerly Weight Watchers International, LLC). Donations to a foundation have been made on his behalf by the Northarvest Bean Growers Association. DBA’s institution, Indiana University, has received funds to support his research or educational activities from the following: NIH, Alliance for Potato Research and Education, American Federation for Aging Research, Dairy Management Inc, Herbalife, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and Oxford University Press. DBA’s prior institution, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, received gifts, contracts, and grants from the Coca-Cola Company, Pepsi, and Dr Pepper/Snapple. KCM has received research grant support as well as honoraria for speaking and advisory boards from the National Dairy Council. He has also received research grant support from the Almond Board of California, American Egg Board, General Mills, Hass Avocado Board, Kellogg Company, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The National Dairy Council sponsored the 2018 Scientific Summit: A New Look at Dairy Foods & Healthy Eating Patterns. The sponsor reviewed this manuscript prior to submission. All editorial decisions were solely left to the authors, and this report reflects the independent opinions and views of the authors. Address correspondence to KCM (e-mail: kcmaki@iu.edu). Abbreviations used: ASCVD, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease; CHD, coronary heart disease; CHS, Cardiovascular Health Study; CRP, C-reactive protein; CVD, cardiovascular disease; DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension; DGA, Dietary Guidelines for Americans; FFCC, full-fat Irish cheddar cheese; HF, heart failure; HTN, hypertension; OCFA, odd-chain SFA; RCT, randomized controlled trial; SRR, summary RR; T2D, type 2 diabetes.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s) 2020.


  • cardiometabolic health
  • cardiovascular disease
  • dairy
  • diabetes
  • food matrix

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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