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Literature Review Thursday: Increasing Dairy Increases Health in Metabolic Syndrome

December 16, 2011


Published just this past June, this study highlights the benefits of consuming an adequate amount of dairy in the daily diet of individuals with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of health disorders like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and insulin resistance. The goal of the study was to assess the effect of dairy consumption on parameters of inflammation and cellular stress – a major problem that may cause or worsen clinical symptoms especially in those with metabolic syndrome.


The study took 40 overweight subjects with metabolic syndrome and split them into 2 groups. The diets in both groups were very similar. All subjects were put at a calorie level to maintain their current body weight. Everyone’s diet was made to mirror the average consumption in the United States (35% fat/49% carbs/16% pro/ 8-12g fiber). This diet is rather high in fat and low in fiber, however, it makes the study a little more realistic at describing benefits of dairy to people in the US. The only different between the two groups was designed to be dairy consumption. The adequate dairy (AD) group was to consume >3.5 servings of dairy every day. The low dairy (LD) group was to eat <.5 servings of dairy per day. The study went on for 12 total weeks, and measurements were taken after 7 days, 4 weeks, and 12 weeks throughout the study.


The adequate dairy group significantly reduced markers of both inflammation and cellular stress … and they saw these results in just 7 days on the diet. These improvements may be the cause for other benefits seen as well. In particular, the AD group saw a significant decrease in their blood pressure, while the LD groups’ did not change. Also, although neither group lost a significant amount of weight, the AD group lost a significant amount of bodyfat. Another major benefit was that even though neither group decreased their blood sugar, the AD group decreased their insulin resistance.


        Although the study showed many statistically significant results, the actual numbers were rather modest. For example, the AD group saw a significant decrease in blood pressure, but this averaged just a slight change from 125/83 to 118/78. Same thing with the decrease in body fat, it was very small and averaged just a 1 lb loss per month. Another downside lies in the study design in general, as the researchers did not account for the amount of calcium in the diets (the AD group had nearly twice the calcium intake of the LD group).


Despite some weaknesses in the study, its potential benefits cannot be denied. Reducing markers of inflammation and stress may have important health benefits especially for those with metabolic syndrome. This is shown by the accompanied decrease in blood pressure and body fat seen with those on the AD diet. Even though these decreases were small, over a longer period of time (for example if a patient was to follow this diet for the rest of their life) the benefits may be much greater. Following simple mathematics, the small weight loss benefit of 1 lb per month, could equal a loss of 60 lbs over the course of 5 years … JUST by making sure to eat a proper amount of dairy every day.

Piece of Cake … Nutrition:

This study showed that consuming an adequate amount of dairy provided health benefits for those with metabolic syndrome

The results were significant, but modest and the need for longer, better controlled studies are necessary before using this dietary recommendation for patients

The study ONLY used patients with metabolic syndrome and therefore these results cannot be assumed for the average healthy person


Eating a balanced diet is always beneficial and this study further provides evidence of health benefits for utilizing ALL the food groups in your daily diet

        *Visit for information on designing a balanced diet


Stancliffe, R.A., T. Thorpe, and M.B. Zemel. “Dairy attentuates oxidative and inflammatory stress in metabolic syndrome.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 94.2 (2011): 422. Print.

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