A review of dairy food intake for improving health among black adults in the US

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of the National Medical Association




2 Pt 2




African American; Black; Chronic disease; Dairy; Disparities; Lactose intolerance; Obesity


The adult life stage encompasses a range of new experiences, opportunities, and responsibilities that impact health and well-being. During this life stage, health disparities continue to increase for Black Americans, with Black adults having a disproportionate burden of obesity, chronic diseases, comorbidities, and worse treatment outcomes compared to their White peers. While many of the underlying factors for these disparities can be linked to longstanding sociopolitical factors such as systemic racism, food insecurity, and poor access to healthcare, there are also several modifiable risk factors that are known to significantly impact health outcomes, such as improving diet quality, increasing physical activity, and not smoking. Of all the modifiable risk factors known to impact health, improving dietary habits is the factor most consistently associated with better outcomes for body weight and chronic disease. Of the major food groups recommended by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) for achieving healthier dietary patterns, dairy foods have a nutrient profile which matches most closely to what Black Americans are inadequately consuming (e.g., vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium). However, Black adults tend to consume less than half the recommended daily servings of dairy foods, in part, due to issues with lactose intolerance, making higher intake of dairy foods an ideal target for improving diet quality and health in this population. This review examines the current body of evidence exploring the links between dairy intake, obesity, cardiometabolic disease risk, chronic kidney disease, and the most common types of cancer, with a special focus on health and disparities among Black adults. Overall, the evidence from most systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses published in the last decade on dairy intake and health outcomes has been conducted on White populations and largely excluded research on Black populations. The findings from this extensive body of research indicate that when teamed with an energy-restricted diet, meeting or exceeding the DGA recommended 3 daily servings of dairy foods is associated with better body weight and composition outcomes and lower rates of most common chronic diseases than lower intake (<2 servings per day). In addition to the number of daily servings consumed, the specific types (e.g., milk, yogurt, cheese) and subtypes (e.g., low-fat, fermented, fortified) consumed have also been shown to play major roles in how these foods impact health. For example, higher intake of fermented dairy foods (e.g., yogurt) and vitamin D fortified dairy products appear to have the most protective effects for reducing chronic disease risk. Along with lactose-free milk and cheese, yogurt is also generally low in lactose, making it an excellent option for individuals with lactose intolerance, who are trying to meet the DGA recommendations for dairy food intake.