A systematic review recently published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggests consumption of dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt have a neutral to beneficial effect on inflammatory biomarkers.
Low-grade systemic inflammation is associated with metabolic disorders such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There are several lifestyle factors that influence the level of inflammation, such as diet, physical activity, stress and smoking. As the relationship between dairy and systemic inflammation is not clear, the systematic review aimed to assess the effects of dairy product (milk, cheese and yoghurt) or dairy protein (whey and casein) interventions on markers of inflammation.
The review included 19 randomized controlled trials which evaluated dairy products; 10 found no effect and 8 showed a reduction in at least one biomarker of inflammation. Also included were 8 trials which assessed dairy protein intake on biomarkers of inflammation and showed no effect of the intervention. The beneficial effect of dairy in reducing the level of inflammatory biomarker were most commonly reported in trials with overweight or obese populations. In overweight and obese people inflammatory markers are generally higher and therefore the chance of finding an effect of an anti-inflammatory intervention is higher in such a population.
There are several mechanisms that could potentially explain dairy’s effect on inflammation. Components of dairy such as calcium and cultures in fermented dairy and bioactive peptides may suppress inflammatory response.
In conclusion, the findings of the review are similar to previous reviews; consumption of dairy products has neutral to beneficial effects on biomarkers of inflammation. Moving forward, new intervention studies using inflammatory biomarkers as primary outcome is recommended to further understand the relationship between dairy intake and inflammation.