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

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of the National Medical Association




2 Pt 2




African American; Age-related chronic disease; Black; Dairy; Disparities; Frailty; Immunity


The transition to older adulthood is generally marked by progressive declines in body composition, metabolism, cognitive function, and immunity. For socially disadvantaged geriatric populations such as Black Americans, this life stage may also include additional stressors, including dealing with discrimination, poor access to healthcare, and food insecurity. These types of chronic stressors are linked to a higher allostatic load, which is associated with accelerated biological aging, higher rates of adverse health outcomes, and an overall lower quality of life. Of the numerous factors involved in healthy aging, a growing body of research indicates that consuming a higher quality diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein foods, and dairy foods, is one of the most potent factors for helping to protect against age-related disease progression. Among the food groups listed above that are recommended by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans dairy foods are unique in their ability to provide several of the essential nutrients (e.g., high-quality protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D in fortified products) that are most often inadequately consumed by older Black Americans. However, dairy is the most inadequately consumed food group in the US, with older Black adults consuming fewer than half of the 3 daily recommended servings. Therefore, this review examines the current body of evidence exploring the links between dairy intake and age-related disease risk, with a special focus on health and disparities among older Black Americans. Overall, the evidence from most systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses focused on dairy intake and musculoskeletal health suggest that higher dairy intake across the life span, and especially from fermented and fortified products, is associated with better bone and muscle health outcomes in older adults. The evidence on dairy intake and neurocognitive and immune outcomes among older adults holds significant promise for potential benefits, but most of these results are sourced from individual studies or narrative reviews and are not currently corroborated in systematic reviews or meta-analyses. Additionally, most of the research on dairy intake and age-related disease risk has been performed in White populations and can only be extrapolated to Black populations. Nonetheless, older Black populations who do not meet the DGA recommended 3 servings of dairy per day due to lactose intolerance, restrictive dietary patterns, or for other reasons, are likely falling short of several of the nutritional requirements necessary to support healthy aging.