Impact of dairy products on biomarkers of inflammation: a systematic review of randomized controlled nutritional intervention studies in overweight and obese adults

Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;97(4):706-17. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.052217. Epub 2013 Feb 27.


Background: Recent data from cross-sectional studies suggest that consumption of dairy products is inversely associated with low-grade systemic inflammation, but a cause-and-effect relation can be confirmed only with results from randomized controlled trials.

Objective: We reviewed the results of randomized controlled nutritional intervention studies that have assessed the impact of dairy product consumption (ie, milk, yogurt, and/or cheese) on biomarkers of inflammation in adults (aged ≥18 y).

Design: We performed a systematic literature search in PubMed in April 2012, which was limited to randomized controlled trials in humans published in English. Studies that included pregnant or lactating women or that did not include a low-dairy control intervention were excluded.

Results: Eight trials that were conducted in overweight or obese adults were included in the review. The only study that had identified change in the inflammatory profile as its primary outcome measure showed that dairy food consumption improved pro- and antiinflammatory biomarker concentrations compared with the low-dairy control diet. Three of the 7 studies in which inflammation was a secondary or undefined outcome showed improvement in key inflammatory biomarkers, ie, C-reactive protein, IL-6, or TNF-α after dairy product consumption, whereas the other 4 studies showed no effect.

Conclusions: Dairy product consumption does not exert adverse effects on biomarkers of inflammation in overweight or obese adults. Several methodologic factors and limitations among existing studies do not allow differentiation between a beneficial or neutral impact of dairy products on inflammation. Further studies specifically designed to assess inflammation-related outcomes are warranted.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Dairy Products*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation Mediators / blood*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • C-Reactive Protein