European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 191-203

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

A reappraisal of the impact of dairy foods and milk fat on cardiovascular disease risk

  • J. Bruce GermanAffiliated withDepartment of Food Science and Technology, University of California Email author 
  • , Robert A. GibsonAffiliated withFunctional Food Science, University of Adelaide
  • , Ronald M. KraussAffiliated withChildren’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, University of California
  • , Paul NestelAffiliated withBaker Heart and Diabetes Research Institute
  • , Benoît LamarcheAffiliated withInstitute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods, Laval University
  • , Wija A. van StaverenAffiliated withWageningen University and Research Centre
  • , Jan M. SteijnsAffiliated withCampina Innovation
  • , Lisette C. P. G. M. de GrootAffiliated withWageningen University and Research Centre
  • , Adam L. LockAffiliated withDepartment of Animal Science, University of Vermont
    • , Frédéric DestaillatsAffiliated withNestlé Research Center



This review provides a reappraisal of the potential effects of dairy foods, including dairy fats, on cardiovascular disease (CVD)/coronary heart disease (CHD) risk. Commodities and foods containing saturated fats are of particular focus as current public dietary recommendations are directed toward reducing the intake of saturated fats as a means to improve the overall health of the population. A conference of scientists from different perspectives of dietary fat and health was convened in order to consider the scientific basis for these recommendations.


This review and summary of the conference focus on four key areas related to the biology of dairy foods and fats and their potential impact on human health: (a) the effect of dairy foods on CVD in prospective cohort studies; (b) the impact of dairy fat on plasma lipid risk factors for CVD; (c) the effects of dairy fat on non-lipid risk factors for CVD; and (d) the role of dairy products as essential contributors of micronutrients in reference food patterns for the elderly.


Despite the contribution of dairy products to the saturated fatty acid composition of the diet, and given the diversity of dairy foods of widely differing composition, there is no clear evidence that dairy food consumption is consistently associated with a higher risk of CVD. Thus, recommendations to reduce dairy food consumption irrespective of the nature of the dairy product should be made with caution.


Milk fat Cardiovascular disease risk Saturated fatty acid