Should dairy be recommended as part of a healthy vegetarian diet? Point

Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1634S-1637S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736O. Epub 2009 Mar 25.


A benefit-risk evaluation of the evidence for including dairy foods in the diet is presented. For many persons dairy products provide a substantial portion of essential nutrients, but especially calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Dietary supplements and fortified foods can be alternative sources of these nutrients, although other components of dairy foods such as amino acid composition and conjugated linoleic acid may be instrumental in the benefits associated with dairy product consumption for bone health and reduced risk of stroke, metabolic syndrome, and some cancers. Newer evidence shows that protein-induced calciuria does not have a detrimental effect on net calcium retention, and the concentrations of hormones in milk are not outside of the range of endogenous concentrations. Increased dietary protein, including from milk, can elevate serum concentrations of insulin-like growth factor I, which has an unknown relation to cancer. The concern over consumption of milk leading to increased risk of prostate cancer through reduction of serum 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, a potent anti-prostate cancer hormone, has been resolved with new evidence that local production of this hormone is independent of diet. Overall, evidence suggests that being a lactovegetarian has greater health benefits and reduced health risks than being a vegan.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Bone Development / physiology
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Dairy Products* / adverse effects
  • Diet, Vegetarian* / adverse effects
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Milk*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Risk Assessment


  • Calcium