Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;96(4):735-47. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.037119. Epub 2012 Aug 29.


Background: Some intervention studies have suggested that dairy products may influence body weight, but the results remain controversial.

Objective: We identified and quantified the effects of dairy consumption on body weight and fat mass from randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Design: We conducted a comprehensive search of PubMed and EMBASE databases (to April 2012) of English reports of RCTs regarding dairy consumption on body weight, body fat, or body weight and body fat in adults. The results across studies were pooled by using a random-effects meta-analysis.

Results: Twenty-nine RCTs were included with a total of 2101 participants. Overall, consumption of dairy products did not result in a significant reduction in weight (-0.14 kg; 95% CI: -0.66, 0.38 kg; I² = 86.3%). In subgroup analysis, consumption of dairy products reduced body weight in the context of energy restriction or short-term intervention (<1 y) trials but had the opposite effect in ad libitum dietary interventions or long-term trials (≥1 y). Twenty-two RCTs that reported results on body fat showed a modest reduction in the dairy group (-0.45 kg; 95% CI: -0.79, -0.11 kg; I² = 70.9%), and further stratified analysis indicated significant beneficial effects of dairy intervention on body fat in energy-restricted or short-term trials but not in long-term or ad libitum studies.

Conclusions: This meta-analysis does not support the beneficial effect of increasing dairy consumption on body weight and fat loss in long-term studies or studies without energy restriction. However, dairy products may have modest benefits in facilitating weight loss in short-term or energy-restricted RCTs.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Adult
  • Body Weight*
  • Dairy Products* / adverse effects
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Overweight / diet therapy
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Weight Gain
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult