Dairy consumption and 10-y total and cardiovascular mortality: a prospective cohort study in the Netherlands

Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Mar;93(3):615-27. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.000430. Epub 2011 Jan 26.


Background: The consumption of dairy products (milk, cheese, and butter) has been positively associated with the risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD), stroke, and total mortality because of the saturated fat content of these products; and protective effects against these outcomes have been attributed to the calcium content and low-fat choices of dairy products. However, robust evidence on the net effect of dairy product consumption on mortality is limited.

Objective: The objective was to investigate the association between dairy product consumption and the risk of death (from all causes, IHD, and stroke) in the Netherlands Cohort Study (NLCS).

Design: The NLCS was initiated in 120,852 men and women aged 55-69 y at baseline in 1986. After 10 y of follow-up, 16,136 subjects with complete dietary information had died. Twenty-nine percent (men) and 22% (women) of these deaths were due to IHD or stroke. The validated 150-item food-frequency questionnaire provided detailed information on dairy products.

Results: Multivariate survival analyses following a case-cohort approach showed only a few statistically significant, but mostly weak, associations. A slightly increased risk of all-cause and IHD mortality was found for both butter and dairy fat intake (per 10 g/d; rate ratio(mortality): 1.04; 95% CI: 1.01, 1.06) only in women. Fermented full-fat milk was inversely associated with all-cause and nonsignificantly with stroke mortality in both sexes.

Conclusions: The role of dairy product consumption in mortality generally appeared to be neutral in men. In women, dairy fat intake was associated with slightly increased all-cause and IHD mortality. More research is warranted on a possible protective effect of fermented milk on stroke mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Calcium, Dietary / adverse effects
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dairy Products / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / epidemiology
  • Myocardial Ischemia / mortality
  • Myocardial Ischemia / prevention & control
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / mortality
  • Stroke / prevention & control
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survival Analysis


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Dietary Fats