Dairy Products, Dairy Fatty Acids, and the Prevention of Cardiometabolic Disease: a Review of Recent Evidence

Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2018 Mar 21;20(5):24. doi: 10.1007/s11883-018-0724-z.


Purpose of review: To examine recent literature on dairy products, dairy fatty acids, and cardiometabolic disease. Primary questions of interest include what unique challenges researchers face when investigating dairy products/biomarkers, whether one should consume dairy to reduce disease risk, whether dairy fatty acids may be beneficial for health, and whether one should prefer low- or high-fat dairy products.

Recent findings: Dairy composes about 10% of the calories in a typical American diet, about half of that coming from fluid milk, half coming from cheese, and small amounts from yogurt. Most meta-analyses report no or weak inverse association between dairy intake with cardiovascular disease and related intermediate outcomes. There is some suggestion that dairy consumption was inversely associated with stroke incidence and yogurt consumption was associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Odd chain fatty acids (OCFAs) found primarily in dairy (15:0 and 17:0) appear to be inversely associated with cardiometabolic risk, but causation is uncertain. Substitution analyses based on prospective cohorts suggested that replacing dairy fat with vegetable fat or polyunsaturated fat was associated with significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Current evidence suggests null or weak inverse association between consumption of dairy products and risk of cardiovascular disease. However, replacing dairy fat with polyunsaturated fat, especially from plant-based foods, may confer health benefits. More research is needed to examine health effects of different types of dairy products in diverse populations.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Dairy; Odd chain fatty acids; Saturated fat; Yogurt.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Dairy Products*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats
  • Energy Intake
  • Fatty Acids*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids