Dairy products provide a package of essential nutrients that is difficult to obtain in low-dairy or dairy-free diets, and for many people it is not possible to achieve recommended daily calcium intakes with a dairy-free diet. Despite the established benefits for bone health, some people avoid dairy in their diet due to beliefs that dairy may be detrimental to health, especially in those with weight management issues, lactose intolerance, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or trying to avoid cardiovascular disease. This review provides information for health professionals to enable them to help their patients make informed decisions about consuming dairy products as part of a balanced diet. There may be a weak association between dairy consumption and a possible small weight reduction, with decreases in fat mass and waist circumference and increases in lean body mass. Lactose intolerant individuals may not need to completely eliminate dairy products from their diet, as both yogurt and hard cheese are well tolerated. Among people with arthritis, there is no evidence for a benefit to avoid dairy consumption. Dairy products do not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly if low fat. Intake of up to three servings of dairy products per day appears to be safe and may confer a favourable benefit with regard to bone health.
Keywords: Arthritis; Cardiovascular disease; Dairy products; Lactose intolerance; Osteoporosis; Weight management.