Impact of low-fat and full-fat dairy foods on fasting lipid profile and blood pressure: exploratory endpoints of a randomized controlled trial

Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 Sep 1;114(3):882-892. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab131.


Background: Dietary guidelines traditionally recommend low-fat dairy because dairy's high saturated fat content is thought to promote cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, emerging evidence indicates that dairy fat may not negatively impact CVD risk factors when consumed in foods with a complex matrix.

Objective: The aim was to compare the effects of diets limited in dairy or rich in either low-fat or full-fat dairy on CVD risk factors.

Methods: In this randomized controlled trial, 72 participants with metabolic syndrome completed a 4-wk run-in period, limiting their dairy intake to ≤3 servings/wk of nonfat milk. Participants were then randomly assigned to 1 of 3 diets, either continuing the limited-dairy diet or switching to a diet containing 3.3 servings/d of either low-fat or full-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese for 12 wk. Exploratory outcome measures included changes in the fasting lipid profile and blood pressure.

Results: In the per-protocol analysis (n = 66), there was no intervention effect on fasting serum total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol; triglycerides; free fatty acids; or cholesterol content in 38 isolated plasma lipoprotein fractions (P > 0.1 for all variables in repeated-measures ANOVA). There was also no intervention effect on diastolic blood pressure, but a significant intervention effect for systolic blood pressure (P = 0.048), with a trend for a decrease in the low-fat dairy diet (-1.6 ± 8.6 mm Hg) compared with the limited-dairy diet (+2.5 ± 8.2 mm Hg) in post hoc testing. Intent-to-treat results were consistent for all endpoints, with the exception that systolic blood pressure became nonsignificant (P = 0.08).

Conclusions: In men and women with metabolic syndrome, a diet rich in full-fat dairy had no effects on fasting lipid profile or blood pressure compared with diets limited in dairy or rich in low-fat dairy. Therefore, dairy fat, when consumed as part of complex whole foods, does not adversely impact these classic CVD risk factors. This trial was registered at as NCT02663544.

Keywords: blood pressure; cardiometabolic disease; cardiovascular disease risk; dairy; humans; metabolic syndrome; serum lipid profile.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / drug effects
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Dairy Products / adverse effects
  • Dairy Products / analysis*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Fats
  • Lipids

Associated data