Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials

Int J Obes (Lond). 2012 Dec;36(12):1485-93. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2011.269. Epub 2012 Jan 17.


Background: Although several observational and experimental studies have investigated the effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition, results are inconsistent.

Objective: This systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to summarize the published evidence from randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) regarding the effect of dairy consumption on weight, body fat mass, lean mass and waist circumference (WC) in adults.

Design: PubMed, ISI Web of Science, SCOPUS, Science Direct and EMBASE were searched from January 1960 to October 2011 for relevant English and non-English publications. Sixteen studies were selected for the systematic review and fourteen studies were included in meta-analysis.

Results: Our search led to 14, 12, 6 and 8 eligible RCTs that had data on weight, body fat mass, lean mass and WC, respectively. Overall, mean difference for the effect of dairy on body weight was -0.61 kg (95% confidence interval (CI): -1.29, 0.07, P=0.08). Increased dairy intake resulted in 0.72 kg (95% CI: -1.29, -0.14, P=0.01) greater reduction in fat mass, 0.58 kg (95% CI: 0.18, 0.99, P<0.01) gain in lean mass and 2.19 cm (95% CI: -3.42, -0.96, P-value <0.001) further reduction in WC than that in controls. Subgroup analysis revealed that increasing dairy intake without energy restriction in both intervention and control groups does not significantly affect weight, body fat mass, lean mass and WC; consumption of high-dairy weight loss diets led to 1.29 kg (95% CI: -1.98, -0.6, P<0.001) greater weight loss, 1.11 kg (95% CI: -1.75, -0.47, P=0.001) greater reduction in body fat mass, 0.72 kg (95% CI: 0.12, 1.32, P=0.02) gain in body lean mass and 2.43 cm (95% CI: -3.42, -1.44, P<0.001) additional reduction in WC compared with controls.

Conclusion: Increased dairy consumption without energy restriction might not lead to a significant change in weight or body composition; whereas inclusion of dairy products in energy-restricted weight loss diets significantly affects weight, body fat mass, lean mass and WC compared with that in the usual weight loss diets.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue* / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Body Composition*
  • Dairy Products*
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Waist Circumference
  • Weight Loss*