European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 1–24 | Cite as

The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease

  • Mario KratzEmail author
  • Ton Baars
  • Stephan Guyenet



To comprehensively review the data on the relationship between the consumption of dairy fat and high-fat dairy foods, obesity, and cardiometabolic disease.


We have conducted a systematic literature review of observational studies on the relationship between dairy fat and high-fat dairy foods, obesity, and cardiometabolic disease. We have integrated these findings with data from controlled studies showing effects of several minor dairy fatty acids on adiposity and cardiometabolic risk factors, and data on how bovine feeding practices influence the composition of dairy fat.


In 11 of 16 studies, high-fat dairy intake was inversely associated with measures of adiposity. Studies examining the relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and metabolic health reported either an inverse or no association. Studies investigating the connection between high-fat dairy intake and diabetes or cardiovascular disease incidence were inconsistent. We discuss factors that may have contributed to the variability between studies, including differences in (1) the potential for residual confounding; (2) the types of high-fat dairy foods consumed; and (3) bovine feeding practices (pasture- vs. grain-based) known to influence the composition of dairy fat.


The observational evidence does not support the hypothesis that dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity or cardiometabolic risk, and suggests that high-fat dairy consumption within typical dietary patterns is inversely associated with obesity risk. Although not conclusive, these findings may provide a rationale for future research into the bioactive properties of dairy fat and the impact of bovine feeding practices on the health effects of dairy fat.


Milk fat Dairy fat Obesity Adiposity Diabetes Cardiovascular disease 



All authors contributed to the writing of this manuscript.

Conflict of interest

None of the authors has any conflicts of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Public Health Sciences, Cancer Prevention ProgramFred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Research Institute of Organic AgricultureFrickSwitzerland
  3. 3.Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology, and Nutrition, Department of MedicineUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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