The health effects of milk and dairy food consumption would best be determined in randomised controlled trials. No adequately powered trial has been reported and none is likely because of the numbers required. The best evidence comes, therefore, from prospective cohort studies with disease events and death as outcomes. Medline was searched for prospective studies of dairy food consumption and incident vascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, based on representative population samples. Reports in which evaluation was in incident disease or death were selected. Meta-analyses of the adjusted estimates of relative risk for disease outcomes in these reports were conducted. Relevant case-control retrospective studies were also identified and the results are summarised in this article. Meta-analyses suggest a reduction in risk in the subjects with the highest dairy consumption relative to those with the lowest intake: 0.87 (0.77, 0.98) for all-cause deaths, 0.92 (0.80, 0.99) for ischaemic heart disease, 0.79 (0.68, 0.91) for stroke and 0.85 (0.75, 0.96) for incident diabetes. The number of cohort studies which give evidence on individual dairy food items is very small, but, again, there is no convincing evidence of harm from consumption of the separate food items. In conclusion, there appears to be an enormous mis-match between the evidence from long-term prospective studies and perceptions of harm from the consumption of dairy food items.