Dairy Foods and Dairy Fats: New Perspectives on Pathways Implicated in Cardiometabolic Health

Adv Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;11(2):266-279. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz105.


Low-fat and nonfat dairy products have been promoted as part of a healthy dietary pattern by both US dietary guidelines and professional organizations for several decades. The basis for this recommendation stems in part from the putative negative cardiometabolic effects associated with saturated fat consumption. However, as nutrition research has shifted from a single nutrient to a whole-food/dietary pattern approach, the role of dairy foods and dairy fat in the diet-disease relationship is being reexamined. Most observational and experimental evidence does not support a detrimental relationship between full-fat dairy intake and cardiometabolic health, including risks of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Indeed, an expanded understanding of the dairy food matrix and the bioactive properties of dairy fats and other constituents suggests a neutral or potentially beneficial role in cardiometabolic health. To consider how consuming dairy foods, including full-fat dairy, is associated with cardiometabolic health, this review provides an innovative perspective on mechanisms that link dairy consumption to 3 main biological systems at the core of metabolic health, the gastrointestinal, hepatic, and vascular systems.

Keywords: cardiometabolic disease; dairy; dietary calcium; saturated fat; type 2 diabetes; vascular health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Cheese
  • Dairy Products*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Liver / physiopathology
  • Metabolic Diseases*
  • Postprandial Period
  • Probiotics
  • Yogurt


  • Dietary Fats