Potential Cardiometabolic Health Benefits of Full-Fat Dairy: The Evidence Base

Adv Nutr. 2020 May 1;11(3):533-547. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz132.


Since their inception in 1980, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have promoted low- or fat-free dairy foods. Removing fat from dairy does not reduce putatively beneficial nutrients per serving, including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Additionally, links between saturated fat and dietary cholesterol intakes with cardiovascular disease risk have helped to sustain the view that low-fat dairy foods should be recommended. Emerging evidence shows that the consumption of full-fat dairy foods has a neutral or inverse association with adverse cardiometabolic health outcomes, including atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and associated risk factors. Thus, although low-fat dairy is a practical, practice-based recommendation, its superiority compared with full-fat dairy is not obviously supported by results from recent prospective cohort studies or intervention trials. To evaluate the emerging science on full-fat dairy, a group of nutrition experts convened to summarize and discuss the scientific evidence regarding the health effects of consuming full-fat dairy foods. Future studies should focus on full-fat dairy foods (milk, yogurt, and cheese) in the context of recommended dietary patterns and consider meal composition and metabolic phenotype in assessing the relation between full-fat dairy consumption and cardiometabolic health.

Keywords: cardiometabolic health; cardiovascular disease; dairy; diabetes; food matrix.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Dairy Products
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / prevention & control
  • Dietary Fats
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Fats