Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Dairy consumption and patterns of mortality of Australian adults



Dairy foods contain various nutrients that may affect health. We investigated whether intake of dairy products or related nutrients is associated with mortality due to cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer and all causes.


We carried out a 16-year prospective study among a community-based sample of 1529 adult Australians aged 25–78 years at baseline. Habitual intakes of dairy products (total, high/low-fat dairy, milk, yoghurt and full-fat cheese), calcium and vitamin D were estimated as mean reported intake using validated food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) self-administered in 1992, 1994 and 1996. National Death Index data were used to ascertain mortality and cause of death between 1992 and 2007. Hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated using Cox regression analysis.


During an average follow-up time of 14.4 years, 177 participants died, including 61 deaths due to CVD and 58 deaths due to cancer. There was no consistent and significant association between total dairy intake and total or cause-specific mortality. However, compared with those with the lowest intake of full-fat dairy, participants with the highest intake (median intake 339 g/day) had reduced death due to CVD (HR: 0.31; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.12–0.79; P for trend=0.04) after adjustment for calcium intake and other confounders. Intakes of low-fat dairy, specific dairy foods, calcium and vitamin D showed no consistent associations.


Overall intake of dairy products was not associated with mortality. A possible beneficial association between intake of full-fat dairy and cardiovascular mortality needs further assessment and confirmation.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1


  • Ashton BA, Ambrosini GL, Marks GC, Harvey PW, Bain C (1997). Development of a dietary supplement database. Aust N Z J Public Health 21, 699–702.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics Leading causes of death in Australia 2006.

  • Case A, Paxson C (2005). Sex differences in morbidity and mortality. Demography 42, 189–214.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cho E, Smith-Warner SA, Spiegelman D, Beeson WL, van den Brandt PA, Colditz GA et al. (2004). Dairy foods, calcium, and colorectal cancer: a pooled analysis of 10 cohort studies. J Natl Cancer Inst 96, 1015–1022.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cook T, Rutishauser IHE, Allsopp R . The Bridging Study—Comparing the Results from the 1983, 1985 and 1995 Australian National Nutrition Surveys. Australian Food and Nutrition Monitoring Unit, Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care: Canberra 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  • Corino C, Mourot J, Magni S, Pastorelli G, Rosi F (2002). Influence of dietary conjugated linoleic acid on growth, meat quality, lipogenesis, plasma leptin and physiological variables of lipid metabolism in rabbits. J Anim Sci 80, 1020–1028.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Elwood PC, Pickering JE, Hughes J, Fehily AM, Ness AR (2004). Milk drinking, ischaemic heart disease and ischaemic stroke II Evidence from cohort studies. Eur J Clin Nutr 58, 718–724.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Figueiredo JC, Levine AJ, Grau MV, Midttun O, Ueland PM, Ahnen DJ et al. (2008). Vitamins B2, B6, and B12 and risk of new colorectal adenomas in a randomized trial of aspirin use and folic acid supplementation. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 17, 2136–2145.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fontana L, Klein S (2007). Aging, adiposity, and calorie restriction. JAMA 297, 986–994.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code Standard 2 4.2. ANSTAT: Melbourne 2008.

  • Freedman LS, Schatzkin A, Thiebaut AC, Potischman N, Subar AF, Thompson FE et al. (2007). Abandon neither the food frequency questionnaire nor the dietary fat-breast cancer hypothesis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 16, 1321–1322.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Giovannucci E, Pollak M, Liu Y, Platz EA, Majeed N, Rimm EB et al. (2003). Nutritional predictors of insulin-like growth factor I and their relationships to cancer in men. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 12, 84–89.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Giovannucci E (2005). The epidemiology of vitamin D and cancer incidence and mortality: a review (United States). Cancer Causes Control 16, 83–95.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Green A, Battistutta D, Hart V, Leslie D, Marks G, Williams G et al. (1994). The nambour skin cancer and actinic eye disease prevention trial: design and baseline characteristics of participants. Control Clin Trials 15, 512–522.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Green A, Williams G, Neale R, Hart V, Leslie D, Parsons P et al. (1999). Daily sunscreen application and betacarotene supplementation in prevention of basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas of the skin: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 354, 723–729.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Holmes MD, Pollak MN, Willett WC, Hankinson SE (2002). Dietary correlates of plasma insulin-like growth factor I and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 concentrations. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 11, 852–861.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm E, Ascherio A, Rosner BA, Spiegelman D et al. (1999). Dietary fat and coronary heart disease: a comparison of approaches for adjusting for total energy intake and modeling repeated dietary measurements. Am J Epidemiol 149, 531–540.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Huth PJ, DiRienzo DB, Miller GD (2006). Major scientific advances with dairy foods in nutrition and health. J Dairy Sci 89, 1207–1221.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jorde R, Bonaa KH (2000). Calcium from dairy products, vitamin D intake, and blood pressure: the Tromso Study. Am J Clin Nutr 71, 1530–1535.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Korn EL, Graubard BI, Midthune D (1997). Time-to-event analysis of longitudinal follow-up of a survey: choice of the time-scale. Am J Epidemiol 145, 72–80.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kristal AR, Peters U, Potter JD (2005). Is it time to abandon the food frequency questionnaire? Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 14, 2826–2828.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kristal AR, Potter JD (2006). Not the time to abandon the food frequency questionnaire: counterpoint. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 15, 1759–1760.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marks GC, Hughes MC, van der Pols JC (2006a). The effect of personal characteristics on the validity of nutrient intake estimates using a food-frequency questionnaire. Public Health Nutr 9, 394–402.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marks GC, Hughes MC, van der Pols JC (2006b). Relative validity of food intake estimates using a food frequency questionnaire is associated with sex, age, and other personal characteristics. J Nutr 136, 459–465.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • McNaughton SA, Marks GC, Gaffney P, Williams G, Green A (2005). Validation of a food-frequency questionnaire assessment of carotenoid and vitamin E intake using weighed food records and plasma biomarkers: the method of triads model. Eur J Clin Nutr 59, 211–218.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • McNaughton SA, Hughes MC, Marks GC (2007). Validation of a FFQ to estimate the intake of PUFA using plasma phospholipid fatty acids and weighed foods records. Br J Nutr 97, 561–568.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mitchell PL, Langille MA, Currie DL, McLeod RS (2005). Effect of conjugated linoleic acid isomers on lipoproteins and atherosclerosis in the Syrian Golden hamster. Biochim Biophys Acta 1734, 269–276.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ness AR, Smith GD, Hart C (2001). Milk, coronary heart disease and mortality. J Epidemiol Community Health 55, 379–382.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parodi PW (1997). Cows’ milk fat components as potential anticarcinogenic agents. J Nutr 127, 1055–1060.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pereira MA, Jacobs Jr DR, Van Horn L, Slattery ML, Kartashov AI, Ludwig DS (2002). Dairy consumption, obesity, and the insulin resistance syndrome in young adults: the CARDIA Study. JAMA 287, 2081–2089.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Samuelson G, Bratteby LE, Mohsen R, Vessby B (2001). Dietary fat intake in healthy adolescents: inverse relationships between the estimated intake of saturated fatty acids and serum cholesterol. Br J Nutr 85, 333–341.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sjogren P, Rosell M, Skoglund-Andersson C, Zdravkovic S, Vessby B, de Faire U et al. (2004). Milk-derived fatty acids are associated with a more favorable LDL particle size distribution in healthy men. J Nutr 134, 1729–1735.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Steinmetz KA, Childs MT, Stimson C, Kushi LH, McGovern PG, Potter JD et al. (1994). Effect of consumption of whole milk and skim milk on blood lipid profiles in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr 59, 612–618.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tavani A, Gallus S, Negri E, La Vecchia C (2002). Milk, dairy products, and coronary heart disease. J Epidemiol Community Health 56, 471–472.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tholstrup T (2006). Dairy products and cardiovascular disease. Curr Opin Lipidol 17, 1–10.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Voskuil DW, Vrieling A, van’t Veer LJ, Kampman E, Rookus MA (2005). The insulin-like growth factor system in cancer prevention: potential of dietary intervention strategies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 14, 195–203.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Willett W (1998). Nutritional Epidemiology 2nd edn Oxford University Press: New York. xiv 514 pp.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Willett WC, Hu FB (2006). Not the time to abandon the food frequency questionnaire: point. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 15, 1757–1758.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Willett WC, Hu FB (2007). The food frequency questionnaire. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 16, 182–183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank all the participants of the Nambour skin cancer study for their participation. This study was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to J C van der Pols.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bonthuis, M., Hughes, M., Ibiebele, T. et al. Dairy consumption and patterns of mortality of Australian adults. Eur J Clin Nutr 64, 569–577 (2010).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • dairy products
  • mortality
  • cardiovascular disease
  • prospective study
  • Australia

Further reading


Quick links