There is interest in the degree to which fats in dairy foods contribute to CHD. We undertook a systematic review to investigate the effect of dairy consumption on CHD using prospective cohort studies. A systematic search of electronic databases identified studies relating dairy food intake in adulthood to episodes or death from CHD, IHD and myocardial infarction. Included studies were assessed for quality based on study methodology, validity of dietary assessment, success of follow-up, standardised assessment of CHD, IHD or myocardial infarction end points and appropriateness of statistical adjustment. Data from twelve cohorts involving >280,000 subjects were included. Most studies had follow-up of >80 %, adjusted statistically for three or more confounders and used standard criteria to determine end points. About half the studies used a validated FFQ, administered the FFQ more than once or had follow-up of >20 years. Fewer than half the studies involved subjects representative of the general population. Four of the twelve cohorts found no association between dairy intake and CHD. Eight studies reported varying relationships between different dairy foods and CHD or differential associations based on race, sex or over time. Although dairy foods contribute to the SFA composition of the diet, this systematic review could find no consistent evidence that dairy food consumption is associated with a higher risk of CHD. This could be due to the limited sensitivity of the dietary assessment methods to detect an effect of a single food in a mixed diet on complex clinical outcomes.