Publications : 2022

Cohen SS, Bylsma LC, Movva N, Alexander DD. 2022. Theoretical attributable risk analysis and Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) based on increased dairy consumption. BMC Public Health 22:1625.


Background: Identification of modifiable risk factors that may impact chronic disease risk is critical to public health. Our study objective was to conduct a theoretical population attributable risk analysis to estimate the burden of disease from low dairy intake and to estimate the impact of increased dairy intake on United States (US)-based disability adjusted life years (DALYs).

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive literature review to identify statistically significant summary relative risk estimates (SRREs) from recent meta-analyses of dairy consumption and key chronic disease outcomes. The SRREs were applied to preventive fractions using a range of categories (low to high) for population consumption of dairy products. The preventive fraction estimates were then applied to the number of DALYs for each health outcome in the US based on 2019 WHO estimates. The population attributable risk proportion estimates were calculated using the inverse of the SRRE from each meta-analysis using the same range of categories of consumption. These values were subsequently applied to the DALYs estimates to estimate the theoretical burden of disease attributable to low dairy intake.

Results: Statistically significant SRREs were identified in recent meta-analyses of total dairy consumption in relation to breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes (T2D), stroke, and hypertension. In this theoretical analysis, nearly 850,000 DALYs (or 5.0% of estimated years of healthy life lost) due to CVD and 200,000 DALYs (4.5%) due to T2D may be prevented by increased dairy consumption. Approximately 100,000 DALYs due to breast cancer (7.5%) and approximately 120,000 DALYs (8.5%) due to colorectal cancer may be prevented by high dairy intake. The numbers of DALYs for stroke and hypertension that may be prevented by increased dairy consumption were approximately 210,000 (6.0%) and 74,000 (5.5%), respectively.

Conclusions: Consumption of dairy products has been associated with decreased risk of multiple chronic diseases of significant public health importance. The burden of disease that may potentially be prevented by increasing dairy consumption is substantial, and population-wide improvement in meeting recommended daily dairy intake goals could have a notable public health impact. However, this analysis is theoretical, and thus additional studies providing empirical evidence are needed to further clarify potential relationships between dairy intake and various health outcomes.

Keywords: Dairy, Preventive Fraction, Disability Adjusted Life Years, DALYs, Attributable Fraction, Chronic Disease