Dairy foods and health: an umbrella review of observational studies

Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2020 Mar;71(2):138-151. doi: 10.1080/09637486.2019.1625035. Epub 2019 Jun 14.


Evidence on consumption of dairy foods and human health is contradictory. This study aimed to summarize the level of evidence of dairy consumption on various health outcomes. A systematic search for meta-analyses was performed: study design, dose-response relationship, heterogeneity and agreement of results over time, and identification of potential confounding factors were considered to assess the level of evidence. Convincing and probable evidence of decreased risk of colorectal cancer, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, elevated blood pressure and fatal stroke, respectively, was found for total dairy consumption; possible decreased risk of breast cancer, metabolic syndrome, stroke and type-2 diabetes, and increased risk of prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease was also found. Similar, yet not entirely consistent evidence for individual dairy products was reported. Among potential confounding factors, geographical localisation and fat content of dairy have been detected. In conclusions, dairy may be part of a healthy diet; however, additional studies exploring confounding factors are needed to ascertain the potential detrimental effects.

Keywords: Dairy products; butter; cheese; cohort; evidence; meta-analysis; milk; prospective; umbrella review; yogurt.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dairy Products* / adverse effects
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Observational Studies as Topic*