BACKGROUND: Associations between dairy intake and body composition and cardiometabolic traits have been inconsistently observed in epidemiological studies, and the causal relationship remains ill-defined.
METHODS: We performed Mendelian randomization analysis using an established genetic variant located upstream of the lactase gene (LCT-13910 C/T, rs4988235) associated with dairy intake as an instrumental variable (IV). The causal effects of dairy intake on body composition and cardiometabolic traits (lipids, glycemic traits, and inflammatory factors) were quantified by IV estimators among 182041 participants from 18 studies.
RESULTS: Each 1 serving/day higher dairy intake was associated with higher lean mass [β (SE) = 0.117 kg (0.035); P = 0.001], higher hemoglobin A1c [0.009% (0.002); P < 0.001], lower LDL [-0.014 mmol/L (0.006); P = 0.013], total cholesterol (TC) [-0.012 mmol/L (0.005); P = 0.023], and non-HDL [-0.012 mmol/L (0.005); P = 0.028]. The LCT-13910 C/T CT + TT genotype was associated with 0.214 more dairy servings/day (SE = 0.047; P < 0.001), 0.284 cm higher waist circumference (SE = 0.118; P = 0.017), 0.112 kg higher lean mass (SE = 0.027; P = 3.8 × 10-5), 0.032 mmol/L lower LDL (SE = 0.009; P = 0.001), and 0.032 mmol/L lower TC (SE = 0.010; P = 0.001). Genetically higher dairy intake was associated with increased lean mass [0.523 kg per serving/day (0.170); P = 0.002] after correction for multiple testing (0.05/18). However, we find that genetically higher dairy intake was not associated with lipids and glycemic traits.
CONCLUSIONS: The present study provides evidence to support a potential causal effect of higher dairy intake on increased lean mass among adults. Our findings suggest that the observational associations of dairy intake with lipids and glycemic traits may be the result of confounding.