(Feb 2021) Many believe that dairy is not a healthy food choice, but the science says otherwise [1]. It depends mostly on product quality, as do most things. Plus, dairy works for some, but not for others. There is great dairy, good dairy and not so good dairy. Because of money and politics [2-4], the current nutritional guidelines are suspect to some degree, so it pays to know the difference.

Unfortunately, we’re still stuck in the “low-fat” craze. Consumers fear saturated fat and cholesterol in food, and opt for plant-based foods and “milks”, despite the lack of science [5,6]. But full fat is making a comeback, and saturated fat is being totally re-examined. Frankly, there is no evidence that saturated fat from full-fat dairy affects diabetes risk. The recent PURE study, with over 135,000 subjects, found that fat intake was not associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) over 7 years. Rather, saturated fat was linked to less stroke [7]. 

Saturated fat is not a single nutrient, but rather a variety of molecules with different effects and functions. Some of that saturated fat is short-chained, which is highly beneficial. In fact, milk contains ~400 different fatty acids, making it the most complex of all natural fats [8]. Milk fat is in perfect balance (65% saturated, 30% monounsaturated, and 5% polyunsaturated). This has led US nutritionists to call for lifting dietary limits on saturated fat [9,10]. 

Dairy products also contain cholesterol, but dietary cholesterol does not increase CVD risk, according to the USDA. Though demonized, cholesterol is necessary for life. Most of it is made in our bodies, and not from the diet. Eggs and dairy show a number of heart health benefits, despite being loaded with cholesterol [11, 12]. In fact, most studies show an inverse relationship between cholesterol and mortality [13]. Those selling cholesterol-lowering drugs would have you believe otherwise. Yet, much of today’s chronic disease comes from replacing animal fat with pro-inflammatory vegetable oils, trans fats and carbohydrates. The bottom line is, stay clear of processed junk. It’s all about natural, fresh and wholesome.

Rather than negatively impact heart disease [14], or diabetes [15-20], dairy intake is actually linked to improved blood pressure [21-25], insulin sensitivity [26-29], and other heart-friendly outcomes [30, 31], regardless of fat content [32, 33]. Paradoxically, whole-fat dairy is even better, with extra vitamin D and other fat-soluble, anti-inflammatory nutrients that help lower body mass index (BMI) [34-36] and improve metabolic function [37-39]. Wholesome dairy can have a positive effect on heart health [40-45], obesity [35,46, 47], and the environment. 

However, not all dairy is the same. Fat content and quality vary greatly, depending on fat skimming, cow type, animal feed, and basic animal husbandry. Nutritional quality is further diluted by sugar and other additives. Organic is preferred, but some organic farms are iffy. Grass-fed meat and dairy are also preferred, but the product may not be fully grass fed, or grass finished. Milk intolerance that causes bloating is avoided by choosing lactose-free or fermented dairy. Inflammatory milk allergies that could lead to autoimmune disease (type 1 diabetes, asthma) are avoided by choosing goat, sheep, or brown cow (A2) milk. Not all cows or dairy farms are the same, so it’s good to know the many nuances.

It’s not one single nutrient, but the whole dairy matrix that’s good for your heart, body weight and bone health. Dairy is nutrient-dense, providing vitamins (A, B6, B12, D and K), minerals (calcium, iodine, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc), healthy fats and good-quality protein. Fermented dairy (e.g., yogurt, kefir) also provide probiotics, which improve gut and inflammatory health. Good dairy provides far more nutrients than any plant-based milk alternative.

It is surprising how many important nutrients come from wholesome dairy. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is another unique substance that supports healthy immunity, weight, blood lipids and inflammation. Short-chain saturated fats in dairy provide energy for colon cells, promote satiety, weight loss, mineral absorption, intestinal health, curb blood sugar, and reduce inflammation [48]. Unique dairy fats and peptides exert anti-microbial, immune-boosting, antioxidant, anti-clotting, and detox effects, helping to prevent cancer, osteoporosis, hypertension and other disorders [49-53]. Whole-fat, grass-fed, organic dairy is truly a superfood.

Fermented, whole-fat, grass-fed dairy is amazing [54]. It contains important blood clot inhibitors [51,55], and tackles inflammation better than non-fermented dairy [56]. Probiotics in fermented foods help improve gut health [55,57], reduce LDL cholesterol [58], hypertension [51, 59], CVD [60], and inflammation [61]. High yogurt intake is inversely linked to CVD [24] and diabetes [17,62], reducing the risk by 28% [62,63]. Yogurt consumption increased HDL in women [64], improved blood sugar [65,66] and obesity in children [67-69]. A review of 10 studies supports yogurt for weight control [70]. Fermented dairy is also an excellent source of vitamin K2 [71,72], which chaperones calcium in the body [73], getting calcium out of your arteries and kidneys back to bone, to benefit cardiovascular [74-78], kidney [76,79]. and bone health [76]. 

Despite all the misinformation, research clearly indicates that dairy consumption is cardioprotective–especially from plain yogurt–and the effect is dose dependent [80]. No doubt, full-fat, grass-fed yogurt is the healthiest stuff on the dairy aisle. So, bone up on yogurt like Trimona, the most perfect of dairy products.


  1. Lordan R, Tsoupras A, Mitra B, Zabetakis I. Dairy fats and cardiovascular disease: Do we really need to be concerned? Foods 2018, 7:29. 
  2. Teicholz, N. The big fat surprise: Why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet. Simon & Schuster, 2014.
  3. Turpeinen, O. Effect of cholesterol-lowering diet on mortality from coronary heart disease and other causes. Circulation 1979, 59:1-7. 
  4. Artaud-Wild SM, Connor S, Sexton G, Connor WE. Differences in coronary mortality can be explained by differences in cholesterol and saturated fat intakes in 40 countries but not in France and Finland. A paradox. Circulation 1993, 88:2771-9.
  5. Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2010, 91:535-46. 
  6. Skeaff CM, Miller J. Dietary fat and coronary heart disease: Summary of evidence from prospective cohort and randomised controlled trials. Ann Nutr Metab 2009, 55:173-201. 
  7. Dehghan M, Mente A, Zhang X, et al. Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (pure): A prospective cohort study. Lancet 2017, 390:2050-62. 
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2596709/
  9. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4226
  10. DaSilva MS, Rudkowska I. Dairy nutrients and their effect on inflammatory profile in molecular studies. Mol Nutr Food Res 2015, 59:1249-63. 
  11. Lordan R, Tsoupras A, Zabetakis I. Phospholipids of animal and marine origin: Structure, function, and anti-inflammatory properties. Molecules 2017, 22:1964. 
  12. Blesso, C. Egg phospholipids and cardiovascular health. Nutrients 2015, 7:2731. 
  13. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e010401
  14. Benatar JR, Sidhu K, Stewart RAH. Effects of high and low fat dairy food on cardio-metabolic risk factors: A meta-analysis of randomized studies. PLoS ONE 2013, 8:e76480. 
  15. Gijsbers L, Ding EL, Malik VS, et al. Consumption of dairy foods and diabetes incidence: A dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2016, 103:1111-24. 
  16. Tong X, Dong JY, Wu ZW, et al. Dairy consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A meta-analysis of cohort studies. Eur J Clin Nutr 2011, 65:1027-31. 
  17. Chen M Sun Q, Giovannucci E, et al. Dairy consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts of us adults and an updated meta-analysis. BMC Med 2014, 12:215. 
  18. Gao D, Ning N, Wang, C, et al. Dairy products consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: Systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. PLoS ONE 2013, 8:e73965. 
  19. Aune D, Norat T, Romundstad P, Vatten LJ. Dairy products and the risk of type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2013, 98:1066-83. 
  20. Bergholdt HKM, Nordestgaard BG, Ellervik C. Milk intake is not associated with low risk of diabetes or overweight-obesity: A mendelian randomization study in 97,811 Danish individuals. Am J Clin Nutr 2015, 102:487-96. 
  21. Alonso A, Zozaya C, Vázquez Z, et al. The effect of low-fat versus whole-fat dairy product intake on blood pressure and weight in young normotensive adults. J Hum Nutr Diet 2009, 22:336-42. 
  22. Ralston RA, Lee JH, Truby H, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of elevated blood pressure and consumption of dairy foods. J Hum Hypertens 2012, 26:3-13.
  23. Soedamah-Muthu SS, Verberne LDM, Ding EL, et al. Dairy consumption and incidence of hypertension: A dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Hypertension 2012, 71
  24. Drouin-Chartier JP, Brassard D, Tessier-Grenier M, et al. Systematic review of the association between dairy product consumption and risk of cardiovascular-related clinical outcomes. Adv Nutr 2016, 7:1026-40. 
  25. Livingstone KM, Lovegrove JA, Cockcroft JR, et al. Does dairy food intake predict arterial stiffness and blood pressure in men? Evidence from the caerphilly prospective study. Hypertension 2013, 61:42-7.
  26. Tremblay A, Gilbert JA. Milk products, insulin resistance syndrome and type 2 diabetes. J Am Coll Nutr 2009, 28:91S–102S. 
  27. Elwood PC, Pickering JE, Fehily AM. Milk and dairy consumption, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome: The caerphilly prospective study. J Epidemiol Community Health 2007, 61:695-8.  
  28. Choi HK, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, et al. Dairy consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in men: A prospective study. Arch Intern Med 2005, 165:997-1003. 
  29. Crichton GE, Bryan J, Buckley J, et al. Dairy consumption and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review of findings and methodological issues. Obes Rev 2011, 12:e190–e201.  
  30. Fumeron F, Lamri A, Abi Khalil C, et al. The Data from the Epidemiological Study on the Insulin Resistance Syndrome Study Group. Diabetes Care 2011, 34:813-7. 
  31. Thorning TK, Bertram HC, Bonjour JP, et al. Whole dairy matrix or single nutrients in assessment of health effects: Current evidence and knowledge gaps. Am J Clin Nutr 2017, 105:1033-45. 
  32. Gholami F, Khoramdad M, Esmailnasab N, et al. The effect of dairy consumption on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. J Cardiovasc Thorac Res 2017, 9:1-11. 
  33. DaSilva MS, Rudkowska I. Dairy products on metabolic health: Current research and clinical implications. Maturitas 2014, 77:221-8. 
  34. Alonso A, Zozaya C, Vázquez Z, et al. The effect of low-fat versus whole-fat dairy product intake on blood pressure and weight in young normotensive adults. J Hum Nutr Diet 2009, 22:336-42. 
  35. Spence LA, Cifelli CJ, Miller GD. The role of dairy products in healthy weight and body composition in children and adolescents. Curr Nutr Food Sci 2011, 7:40-9.
  36. Vanderhout SM, Birken CS, Parkin PC, et al. Relation between milk-fat percentage, vitamin D, and BMI z score in early childhood. Am J Clin Nutr 2016, 104:1657-64. 
  37. Lee K, Cho W. The consumption of dairy products is associated with reduced risks of obesity and metabolic syndrome in Korean women but not in men. Nutrients 2017, 9: 630. 
  38. Chen GC, Szeto I, Chen L, et al. Dairy products consumption and metabolic syndrome in adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Sci Rep 2015, 5:14606. 
  39. Drehmer M, Pereira MA, Schmidt MI, et al. Total and full-fat, but not low-fat, dairy product intakes are inversely associated with metabolic syndrome in adults. J Nutr 2015, 146:81-9. 
  40. Lamarche B, Givens DI, Soedamah-Muthu S, et al. Does milk consumption contribute to cardiometabolic health and overall diet quality? Can J Cardiol 2016, 32:1026-32.
  41. Dumas AA, Lapointe A, Dugrenier M, et al. Systematic review of the effect of yogurt consumption on chronic diseases risk markers in adults. Eur J Clin Nutr 2017, 56: 1375-92. 
  42. Alexander DD, Bylsma LC, Vargas AJ, et al. Dairy consumption and CVD: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr 2016, 115:737-50. 
  43. Qin LQ, Xu JY, Han SF, et al. Dairy consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: An updated meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2015, 24:90-100. 
  44. Crichton GE, Elias MF. Dairy food intake and cardiovascular health: The maine-syracuse study. Adv Dairy Res 2014, 2:1-8.
  45. Crichton GE, Alkerwi A. Dairy food intake is positively associated with cardiovascular health: Findings from observation of cardiovascular risk factors in Luxembourg study. Nutr Res 2014, 34:1036-44. 
  46. Lu L, Xun P, Wan Y, et al. Long-term association between dairy consumption and risk of childhood obesity: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Eur J Clin Nutr 2016, 70:414-23. 
  47. Crichton GE, Alkerwi A. Whole-fat dairy food intake is inversely associated with obesity prevalence: Findings from the observation of cardiovascular risk factors in Luxembourg study. Nutr Res 2014, 34:936-43.
  48. https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/10/4/576/5476417 
  49. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319562X15001382
  50. Parodi PW. Cooperative action of bioactive components in milk fat with ppars may explain its anti-diabetogenic properties. Med Hypotheses 2016, 89:1-7. 
  51. Lordan R, Zabetakis I. Invited review: The anti-inflammatory properties of dairy lipids. J Dairy Sci 2017, 100:4197-212.
  52. Beltrán-Barrientos LM, Hernández-Mendoza A, Torres-Llanez MJ, et al. Invited review: Fermented milk as antihypertensive functional food. J Dairy Sci 2016, 99:4099-110. 
  53. O’Keeffe MB, FitzGerald RJ. Whey protein hydrolysate induced modulation of endothelial cell gene expression. J Funct Foods 2018, 40:102-9. 
  54. Bradlee ML, Singer MR, Qureshi MM, Moore LL. Food group intake and central obesity among children and adolescents in the third national health and nutrition examination survey (NHANES III). Public Health Nutr 2009, 13:797-805. 
  55. Olmedilla-Alonso B, Nova-Rebato E, García-González N, et al. Effect of ewe’s (semi-skimmed and whole) and cow’s milk yogurt consumption on the lipid profile of control subjects: A crossover study. Food Nutr Res 2017, 61:1391669. 
  56. Lordan R, Zabetakis I. Ovine and caprine lipids promoting cardiovascular health in milk and its derivatives. Adv Dairy Res 2017, 5
  57. Zoumpopoulou G, Pot B, Tsakalidou E, Papadimitriou K. Dairy probiotics: Beyond the role of promoting gut and immune health. Int Dairy J 2017, 67:46-60.
  58. Huth PJ, Park KM. Influence of dairy product and milk fat consumption on cardiovascular disease risk: A review of the evidence. Adv Nutr 2012, 3:266-85. 
  59. Laurent S, Boutouyrie P, Asmar R, et al. Aortic stiffness is an independent predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in hypertensive patients. Hypertension 2001, 37:1236-41. 
  60. Parvez S, Malik KA, AhKang S, Kim HY. Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. J Appl Microbiol 2006, 100:1171-85. 
  61. Buendia JR, Li Y, Hu FB, et al. Regular yogurt intake and risk of cardiovascular disease among hypertensive adults. Am J Hypertens 2018
  62. Sluijs I, Forouhi NG, Beulens JWJ, et al. The amount and type of dairy product intake and incident type 2 diabetes: Results from the epic-interact study. Am J Clin Nutr 2012, 96:382-90. 
  63. Clifton P. Chapter 32—The influence of dairy consumption on the risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and impaired glucose tolerance or insulin resistance: A review of cohort and intervention studies a2—Watson, ronald ross. In Dairy in Human Health and Disease Across the Lifespan; Collier, R.J., Preedy, V.R., Eds.; Academic Press: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2017; pp. 411-22.  
  64. Kießling G, Schneider J, Jahreis G. Long-term consumption of fermented dairy products over 6 months increases HDL cholesterol. Eur J Clin Nutr 2002, 56:843-9.
  65. Turner KM, Keogh JB, Clifton PM. Dairy consumption and insulin sensitivity: A systematic review of short- and long-term intervention studies. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2015, 25:3-8. 
  66. Hove KD, Brøns C, Færch K, et al. Effects of 12 weeks of treatment with fermented milk on blood pressure, glucose metabolism and markers of cardiovascular risk in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled study. Eur J Endocrinol 2015, 172:11-20. 
  67. Keast D, Hill Gallant K, Albertson A, et al. Associations between yogurt, dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intake and obesity among U.S. Children aged 8–18 years: NHANES, 2005–2008. Nutrients 2015, 7:1577. 
  68. Moore LL, Singer MR, Qureshi MM, et al. Dairy intake and anthropometric measures of body fat among children and adolescents in NHANES. J Am Coll Nutr 2008, 27:702-10. 
  69. Sayon-Orea C, Martínez-González MA, Ruiz-Canela M, Bes-Rastrollo M. Associations between yogurt consumption and weight gain and risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review. Adv Nutr 2017, 8:146S–54S. 
  70. Tognon G, Nilsson LM, Shungin D, et al. Nonfermented milk and other dairy products: Associations with all-cause mortality. Am J Clin Nutr 2017, 105:1502-11. 
  71. Fu X, Harshman SG, Shen X, et al. Multiple vitamin K forms exist in dairy foods. Curr Dev Nutr 2017, 1:e000638. 
  72. Rosa DD, Dias MMS, Grzes ́kowiak ŁM, et al. Milk kefir: Nutritional, microbiological and health benefits. Nutr Res Rev 2017, 30:82-96. 
  73. O’Connor EM, Durack E. Osteocalcin: The extra-skeletal role of a vitaminK-dependent protein in glucose metabolism. J Nutr Intermed Metab 2017, 7:8-13. 
  74. Van Ballegooijen AJ, Beulens JW. The role of vitamin K status in cardiovascular health: Evidence from observational and clinical studies. Curr Nutr Rep 2017, 6:197-205. 
  75. Shea MK, Holden RM. Vitamin K status and vascular calcification: Evidence from observational and clinical studies. Adv Nutr 2012, 3:158-65. 
  76. Harshman SG, Shea MK. The role of vitamin K in chronic aging diseases: Inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and osteoarthritis. Curr Nutr Rep 2016, 5:90-8. 
  77. Gast GCM, deRoos NM, Sluijs I, et al. A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009, 19:504-10.  
  78. Nagata C, Wada K, Tamura T, et al. Dietary soy and natto intake and cardiovascular disease mortality in Japanese adults: The Takayama study. Am J Clin Nutr 2017, 105: 426-31. 
  79. Keyzer CA, Vermeer C, Joosten MM, et al. Vitamin K status and mortality after kidney transplantation: A cohort study. Am J Kidney Dis 2015, 65:474-83. 
  80. Stancliffe RA, Thorpe T, Zemel MB. Dairy attenuates oxidative and inflammatory stress in metabolic syndrome. Am J Clin Nutr 2011, 94:422-30. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s