The consumption of dairy, including milk, cheese and yogurt, has been associated with better quality of diet and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death globally. The purpose of this review is to examine recent literature on the relationship between dairy consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. Eighteen observational studies were reviewed, the results of which indicate that total dairy intake does not contribute to cardiovascular disease incidence or death. Based on available data, it appears that milk, cheese, and yogurt are inversely associated with cardiovascular disease risk. Data pertaining to dairy fat were inconclusive, but point to a potential protective effect of full-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt on risk of cardiovascular disease. Currently, there is a need to study specific well-defined foods, as opposed to calculating nutrients, in order to better understand these relationships. Future research need not replicate the body of literature on total dairy consumption and associated risk of disease, but rather should focus on the effects of individual dairy foods on cardiovascular events in male and female populations.
Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Cardiovascular disease; Cheese; Coronary heart disease; Cultured dairy; Dairy; Heart disease; Milk; Stroke; Yogurt.