Objectives: To conduct a detailed evaluation, with meta-analyses, of the published evidence on milk and dairy consumption and the incidence of vascular diseases and diabetes. Also to summarise the evidence on milk and dairy consumption and cancer reported by the World Cancer Research Fund and then to consider the relevance of milk and dairy consumption to survival in the UK, a typical Western community. Finally, published evidence on relationships with whole milk and fat-reduced milks was examined.
Methods: Prospective cohort studies of vascular disease and diabetes with baseline data on milk or dairy consumption and a relevant disease outcome were identified by searching MEDLINE, and reference lists in the relevant published reports. Meta-analyses of relationships in these reports were conducted. The likely effect of milk and dairy consumption on survival was then considered, taking into account the results of published overviews of relationships of these foods with cancer.
Results: From meta-analysis of 15 studies the relative risk of stroke and/or heart disease in subjects with high milk or dairy consumption was 0.84 (95% CI 0.76, 0.93) and 0.79 (0.75, 0.82) respectively, relative to the risk in those with low consumption. Four studies reported incident diabetes as an outcome, and the relative risk in the subjects with the highest intake of milk or diary foods was 0.92 (0.86, 0.97).
Conclusions: Set against the proportion of total deaths attributable to the life-threatening diseases in the UK, vascular disease, diabetes and cancer, the results of meta-analyses provide evidence of an overall survival advantage from the consumption of milk and dairy foods.