The associations of longitudinal changes in consumption of total and types of dairy products and markers of metabolic risk and adiposity: findings from the European Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Norfolk study, United Kingdom

Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 May 1;111(5):1018-1026. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz335.


Background: The consumption of some types of dairy products has been associated with lower cardiometabolic disease incidence. Knowledge remains limited about habitual dairy consumption and the pathways to cardiometabolic risk.

Objective: We aimed to investigate associations of habitual consumption of total and types of dairy products with markers of metabolic risk and adiposity among adults in the United Kingdom.

Methods: We examined associations of changes in dairy consumption (assessed with a food-frequency questionnaire) with parallel changes in cardiometabolic markers using multiple linear regression among 15,612 adults aged 40-78 y at baseline (1993-1997) and followed up over 1998-2000 (mean ± SD: 3.7±0.7 y) in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Norfolk study.

Results: For adiposity, an increase in fermented dairy products [yogurt (total or low-fat) or low-fat cheese] consumption was associated with a lower increase in body weight and body mass index (BMI). For example, over 3.7 y, increasing yogurt consumption by 1 serving/d was associated with a smaller increase in body weight by 0.23 kg (95% CI: -0.46, -0.01 kg). An increase in full-fat milk, high-fat cheese, and total high-fat dairy was associated with greater increases in body weight and BMI [e.g., for high-fat dairy: β = 0.13 (0.05, 0.21) kg and 0.04 (0.01, 0.07) kg/m2, respectively]. For lipids, an increase in milk (total and low-fat) or yogurt consumption was positively associated with HDL cholesterol. An increase in total low-fat dairy was negatively associated with LDL cholesterol (-0.03 mmol/L; -0.05, -0.01 mmol/L), whereas high-fat dairy (total, butter, and high-fat cheese) consumption was positively associated [e.g., 0.04 (0.02, 0.06) mmol/L for total high-fat dairy]. For glycemia, increasing full-fat milk consumption was associated with a higher increase in glycated hemoglobin (P = 0.027).

Conclusions: The habitual consumption of different dairy subtypes may differently influence cardiometabolic risk through adiposity and lipid pathways.

Keywords: adiposity; adults; analysis of change; butter; cardiometabolic disease; cheese; dairy products; milk; yogurt.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Dairy Products / analysis*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol