Milk in the diet: good or bad for vascular disease?

Proc Nutr Soc. 2012 Feb;71(1):98-104. doi: 10.1017/S0029665111003223. Epub 2011 Oct 17.


CVD still represent the greatest cause of death and disease burden in Europe and there remains uncertainty whether or not diets rich in milk and/or dairy products affect CVD risk. This paper reviews current evidence on this from prospective studies and the role of serum lipids and blood pressure as markers of CVD risk with such diets. Also the potential of animal nutrition-based approaches aimed at reducing CVD risk from consumption of milk and dairy products is outlined. Briefly, the evidence from prospective studies indicates that increased consumption of milk does not result in increased CVD risk and may give some long-term benefits, although few studies relate specifically to cheese and butter and more information on the relationship between milk/dairy product consumption and dementia is needed. Recent data suggest that the SFA in dairy products may be less of a risk factor than previously thought; although this is based on serum cholesterol responses which taken in isolation may be misleading. Milk and some dairy products have counterbalancing effects by reducing blood pressure and possibly BMI control. Despite this, animal nutrition strategies to replace some SFA in milk with cis-MUFA or cis-PUFA are extensive and intuitively beneficial, although this remains largely unproven, especially for milk. There is an urgent need for robust intervention studies to evaluate such milk-fat modifications using holistic markers of CVD risk including central arterial stiffness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Dairy Products / adverse effects
  • Diet*
  • Fatty Acids / adverse effects*
  • Fatty Acids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Milk* / adverse effects
  • Milk* / chemistry
  • Vascular Stiffness*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipids
  • Cholesterol