Health benefits of milk, yoghurt and cheese

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recognise the importance of consuming enough dairy in the diet every day, however alarmingly 90% of Australian adults are not getting enough dairy in their diets.1 Dairy foods are well-known for their high calcium content, but also contain a unique package of other essential nutrients which are important for blood and immune system, eyesight, muscle and nerve function, healthy skin, energy, and growth and repair in all parts of the body.

The table below lists the essential nutrients found in dairy and their functions in the body.

Nutrient 
Function 
Calcium
  • Essential for strong bones and teeth
  • Needed for normal muscle and nerve functioning and may assist in controlling high blood pressure
Vitamin B12
  • Helps to keep blood healthy
  • Assists in the formation of nerve cells
Vitamin A
  • Essential for healthy eyesight
  • Important for growth, particularly in children
Riboflavin
  • Helps release energy from food
  • Helps cells to function properly
Potassium
  • Assists with blood pressure control
  • Important for nerve impulse transmission
Magnesium
  • Important component in bone structure
  • Essential for energy transfer around the body
Zinc
  • Aids wound healing
  • Essential for normal growth and development in bones, brain and other parts of the body
Phosphorus
  • Forms an important part of the mineral structure in bones and teeth
  • Works with B vitamins to release energy from food
Carbohydrate
  • Provides energy for the body
Protein
  • Needed for growth and development as well as repair to damaged body tissues
  • Forms part of many enzymes and blood components and is essential for maintaining muscles

While it is widely known dairy is important for strong bones and teeth, there are wider health benefits of consuming milk, yoghurt and cheese. Eating amounts consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer and the metabolic syndrome. There are also other additional benefits of consuming dairy for bone health2,3 and dental health.4


While research in this area is still growing, below are just some of the important research findings that support the health benefits of consuming milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives (mostly reduced-fat).



1 Doidge J, Segal L. Most Australians do not meet recommendations for dairy consumption: findings of a new technique to analyse nutrition surveys. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2012;36(3):236-40.

2 Ebeling P, Daly R, Kerr D, Kimlin M. Building bones throughout life: an evidence-informed strategy to prevent osteoporosis in Australia. Med J Aust. 2013;199(7 Supp):S1.

3 Abargouei A, Janghorbani M, Salehi-Marzijarani M, Esmaillzadeh A. Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2012;36(12):1485-93.

4 Moynihan P, Petersen P. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases. Public Health Nutr. 2004;7(1a).

  • Cardiovascular disease and blood pressure

    Research in the US has found that a diet low in salt and high in fruits and vegetables, together with high intake of low-fat dairy (known as the DASH diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) significantly reduced blood pressure, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This was when compared to fruit and vegetables alone.5,6



    5 Appel L, Moore T, Obarzanek E, Vollmer W, Svetkey L, Sacks F et al. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on Bbood Pressure. New Engl J Med. 1997;336(16):1117-24.

    6 Karanja N, Obarzanek E, Lin P, McCullough M, Phillips K, Swain J et al. Descriptive characteristics of the dietary patterns used in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Trial. J Am Diet Assoc. 1999;99(8):S19-S27.

  • Weight loss

    As part of a balanced diet, dairy – both reduced and regular-fat varieties – is not linked with weight gain or obesity.7 In fact, research suggests that at least three serves of dairy per day can lead to weight loss and reductions in waist size.8 While dairy foods do contain saturated fat, there are numerous other beneficial components and bioactive substances in milk which may contribute to the prevention of chronic disease.



    7 Chen M, Pan A, Malik VS, Hu FB. Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;96(4):735-47.

    8 Abargouei A, Janghorbani M, Salehi-Marzijarani M, Esmaillzadeh A. Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2012;36(12):1485-93.

  • Type 2 diabetes

    A review that combined the effects of 16 separate studies and over 520,000 people found higher intakes of all varieties of milk, yoghurt and cheese was linked with an 11% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes compared to people eating less dairy.9 Every 200g of total dairy foods was linked to a 6% reduction in type 2 diabetes risk. A 20% drop in the risk of type 2 diabetes was reported for every 30g of cheese consumed per day.



    9 Gao D, Ning N, Wang C, Wang Y, Li Q, Meng Z et al. Dairy products consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(9):e73965

  • References for this page


    1 Doidge J, Segal L. Most Australians do not meet recommendations for dairy consumption: findings of a new technique to analyse nutrition surveys. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2012;36(3):236-40.

    2 Ebeling P, Daly R, Kerr D, Kimlin M. Building bones throughout life: an evidence-informed strategy to prevent osteoporosis in Australia. Med J Aust. 2013;199(7 Supp):S1.

    3 Abargouei A, Janghorbani M, Salehi-Marzijarani M, Esmaillzadeh A. Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2012;36(12):1485-93.

    4 Moynihan P, Petersen P. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases. Public Health Nutr. 2004;7(1a).

    5 Appel L, Moore T, Obarzanek E, Vollmer W, Svetkey L, Sacks F et al. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on Bbood Pressure. New Engl J Med. 1997;336(16):1117-24.

    6 Karanja N, Obarzanek E, Lin P, McCullough M, Phillips K, Swain J et al. Descriptive characteristics of the dietary patterns used in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Trial. J Am Diet Assoc. 1999;99(8):S19-S27.

    7 Chen M, Pan A, Malik VS, Hu FB. Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;96(4):735-47.

    8 Abargouei A, Janghorbani M, Salehi-Marzijarani M, Esmaillzadeh A. Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2012;36(12):1485-93.

    9 Gao D, Ning N, Wang C, Wang Y, Li Q, Meng Z et al. Dairy products consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(9):e73965