Dairy products and obesity

Dairy product consumption, dietary nutrient and energy density and associations with obesity in Australian adolescents

O’Sullivan et al JHND Early View


Dairy intake is likely to influence dietary energy density (ED) and nutrient density (ND), which are factors representing aspects of dietary quality. Although evidence suggests dairy intake is unlikely to contribute to obesity, intake tends to decrease over adolescence, potentially as a result of concerns around weight gain. We examined associations between dairy intake, ED and ND, and investigated relationships with obesity in adolescents.


The present study comprised a cross-sectional study of 1613 14-year-olds in the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study. Adolescents completed a 212-item food frequency questionnaire. Nutrient Rich Food index 9.3 (NRF9.3) was used to estimate ND. Age-specific body mass index (BMI) and waist–height cut-offs were used to categorise obesity risk.


Mean (SD) dairy intake was: 2.62 (1.51) servings daily; ED was 4.53 (0.83) (food and beverage) and 6.28 (1.33) (food only); ND was 373 (109). Dairy intake was inversely associated with ED and positively associated with ND. The odds of being overweight (as assessed by BMI) increased by 1.24 (95% confidence interval = 1.09–1.42) with each 100-point increase in ND, after adjustment for potential confounders and energy intake. ED measures and dairy intake were inversely associated with obesity after adjustment for confounders; associations became nonsignificant after energy adjustment.


The NRF9.3 was originally designed to assess foods, not diets. Further research in other cohorts to determine whether similar findings exist, or investigations into alternate measures of dietary ND, may prove useful. Our findings may be the result of factors such as an excess consumption of refined but fortified foods. Although higher dairy intakes were associated with higher ND, intakes were not associated with higher obesity risk.


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