Today there seems to be a laundry list of debatable nutrition topics. Everything from people thinking diet soda causes cancer to fruit causing diabetes. They seem bizarre on the surface but it’s worth at least understanding the research by which they are being debated. Just because something sounds like absolute nonsense does not mean you should arrogantly laugh and give it no consideration. As for dairy, it’s not quite as bizarre of a topic but it still is quite debated as many people believe they are harming their bodies with the consumption of dairy. Today, lets examine the peer reviewed scientific evidence including systematic review studies and meta analysis that examine the health, nutrition, and impact on inflammation in the body.

In May 2019, researchers gathered and reviewed multiple studies to create a  systematic review of randomized clinical trials. The markers that the examined included, “circulating concentrations of C-reactive protein, interleukins, cytokines, and vascular adhesion molecules or expression of proinflammatory genes in peripheral blood mononuclear cells; however, the primary outcomes considered were not limited to these.” From the 16 different reviews, these researchers found that, “the consumption of milk or dairy products did not show a proinflammatory effect in healthy subjects or individuals with metabolic abnormalities. The majority of studies documented a significant anti-inflammatory effect in both healthy and metabolically abnormal subjects, although not all the articles were of high quality.” 

In August 2017 a group of researchers examined 52 different clinical trials examining the effects of dairy of the inflammatory score within the body. Results indicated, “was significantly positive for the entire data set, indicating an anti-inflammatory activity in humans. When the subjects were stratified according to their health status, the IS was strongly indicative of an anti-inflammatory activity in subjects with metabolic disorders and of a pro-inflammatory activity in subjects allergic to bovine milk. Stratifying the data by product categories associated both low-fat and high-fat products, as well as fermented products, with an anti-inflammatory activity.”

In August 2021 a group of researchers gathered to create a systematic review regarding the effects of both dairy protein and products on biomarkers in the human body. The results they found indicated, “ In the 19 trials which evaluated dairy products, 10 reported no effect of the intervention, while 8 reported a reduction in at least one biomarker of inflammation. All 8 trials that investigated dairy protein intake on markers of inflammation reported no effect of the intervention. The available literature suggests that dairy products and dairy proteins have neutral to beneficial effects on biomarkers of inflammation. Additional clinical studies designed using inflammatory biomarkers as the primary outcome are needed to fully elucidate the effects of dairy intake on inflammation.”

In August 2011 a randomized control trial examined the circulating inflammatory and atherogenic biomarkers following single meals of dairy foods. The results were, “Single high-fat meals containing sequentially four different full-fat dairy foods did not increase eight circulating biomarkers related to inflammation or atherogenesis.” 

In Fact… Let’s look at studies that examine potential benefits that dairy has on the body.

  1. A Randomization Analysis from 18 studies showed “ evidence to support a potential causal effect of higher dairy intake on increased lean mass among adults.”
  1. A 2016 Meta Analysis of Randomized Control Trials revealed, “Increased dairy intake as part of energy restricted diets resulted in greater loss in bodyweight and fat mass while attenuating lean mass loss in 18-50-year-old adults.
  1. A 2008 Meta Analysis showed evidence that dairy plays a critical role in improving bone density, “increased dietary calcium/dairy products, with and without vitamin D, significantly increases total body and lumbar spine BMC in children with low base-line intakes.”
  1. Most people argue that 75% of people are lactose intolerant which is false. Studies have shown that lactose malabsorption (which is much less severe than lactose intolerance) is different amongst races and ethnicities. 21% for caucasians, 75% for african americans, 79% for native americans, and 51% for hispanics. Most issues that people have with dairy stem from not having a presence of lactase enzymes in the gut. When you remove dairy for a prolonged period of time the body gradually gets rid of this enzyme which makes it much more difficult for individuals to reintroduce dairy into their diet after abstaining for a period of time. 
  1. A 2022 Meta Analysis found that it is primarily an EXCESS consumption of high fat dairy that is associated (associated does not mean causative, it’s just associated) with cancer and chronic disease. Low Fat dairy is associated with less CVD and chronic illness. “Dose-response analysis revealed a significant non-linear association of total dairy consumption with all-cause and CVD mortality. Moreover, high-fat milk consumption was significantly associated with risk of cancer mortality in linear and non-linear dose-response analysis. In conclusion, we found high-fat milk consumption was associated with a higher risk of all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality. However, total dairy consumption was associated with a lower risk of CVD mortality.

Summary – As research continues to point out, foods are not inherently inflammatory. Chronic Inflammation occurs in the body from excess energy intake. Contrary to most people’s beliefs, there is no such thing as a fat burning food. There are certainly foods (typically high in protein, fiber, or micronutrients) that lead to individuals eating less calories which in turn leads to fat loss. As seen from countless studies, inflammation is directly correlated with excess body fat in humans. Dairy is a nutrient dense, bioavailable, protein rich option for food.

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