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Observational studies, mainly from Western populations, suggest dairy consumption is inversely associated with adiposity. However, in these populations the intake range is limited and both diet and obesity may share social patterning. Evidence from non-Western developed settings with different social patterning, is valuable in distinguishing whether observed associations are biologically mediated or socially confounded.

To examine the associations of milk or other dairy product consumption with adolescent obesity.

We used multivariable linear regression models to examine the associations of milk or other dairy product consumption, obtained from a food frequency questionnaire, at 11 years with body mass index (BMI) z-scores at 13 years and waist hip ratio (WHR) at 11 years, in 5,968 adolescents from a Chinese birth cohort, comprising 88% of births in April and May 1997. We used multiple imputation for missing exposures and confounders.

Only 65.7% regularly consumed milk and 72.4% other dairy products. Milk and other dairy product consumption was positively associated with socio-economic position but not with BMI z-score or WHR, with or without adjustment for sex, mother’s birthplace, parental education, physical activity and other food consumption.

The lack of association of milk and other dairy product consumption with adiposity in a non-Western setting was not consistent with the majority of evidence from Western settings. Observed anti-obesigenic effects in Western settings may be due to socially patterned confounding.


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited



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