Do Dairy Foods Cause Inflammation?

“Anti-inflammatory” diets are everywhere – a trend likely fueling the nearly 20 million Google search results on the topic. Consumers are getting a lot of confusing information when it comes to food and inflammation. That confusion could be cutting entire food groups from the diet. We wanted to see what the science says when it comes to dairy foods and inflammation.

Myth: Eating dairy foods causes chronic inflammation

Truth: Research shows that enjoying dairy foods as part of a nutrient-rich diet is not associated with systemic inflammation, and in fact, dairy may reduce inflammation in the body.

The National Dairy Council recently shared some exciting research that that shows dairy may actually reduce inflammation in the body.

Our bodies experience two types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or injury and is often characterized by redness or swelling at the site of a cut or scrape. Chronic (or systemic) inflammation, on the other hand, can show no symptoms and results from a continuously out-of-balance immune system. Dietary choices may be related chronic inflammation, however, there is no scientific consensus on “anti-inflammatory” diets. Chronic inflammation can impact the body several different ways and may be linked to a person’s lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

An ever-growing body of research shows that eating the recommended amount of dairy foods, for adults that is 3 servings per day, as a part of a nutrient-rich balanced diet is not linked to inflammation. A recent Canadian study among adults who experience chronic inflammation found that eating dairy foods had no negative effect on markers of inflammation. Instead, people should focus on eating more like MyPlate with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables (rich in antioxidants), whole grains, lean meats, nuts, seeds, legumes and nutrient-rich dairy foods – this is a great place to start when it comes to improving health, and reducing inflammation.

As Greg Miller, Ph.D. says, “though anti-inflammatory diets are trendy, it’s important to remember that combatting chronic inflammation involves more than individual nutrients or foods. Maintaining health is about having an overall healthful eating pattern and lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight, among other factors.”

Eager to learn more about the benefits of dairy? Here’s more about dairy’s role in healthy diet.

By Jenna Allen, M.S., RDN

Jenna is a registered dietitian with a passion for communicating science in an approachable way. She has been part of the Dairy MAX team since 2008. When she isn't working, Jenna is trying out new recipes with her three kids and working on her food photography. Learn more about Jenna.

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