Dairy and Obesity

The consumption of cow’s milk has decreased over the past few decades, two other much deadlier dairy commodities have become dominant in Americans’ daily diet!

As the consumption of cow’s milk has decreased over the past few decades, two other much deadlier dairy commodities have quietly gained dominant share in Americans’ daily diet…

“The same agency at the center of the federal anti-obesity drive is supposed to discourage over-consumption of [cheese]..yet the [USDA]..is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.” ~ Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist and Best-Selling Author, Michael Moss


A recent report from the CDC1 found that over 7 out of 10 Americans are now overweight. Of those, about 40% of adults and nearly 20% of adolescents are obese. The CDC admits that these are the highest rates ever recorded for obesity in America.

Hispanic (47.0%) and Black (46.8%) Americans have the highest age-adjusted prevalence of obesity, followed by whites (37.9%) and non-Hispanic Asians (12.7%). “The prevalence of obesity among young adults (20 to 39 years old) was 35.7%, 42.8% among middle-aged adults 40 to 59 years old, and 41.0% among adults 60 years and older.” And as Baby Boomers grow older, the rates of obesity among the elderly will continue to increase exponentially.



Most alarming are the record rates of obesity in American children”: the percentage of children affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s.

Today, one out of every five youth (6–19 yers old), are considered obese (not just overweight). And obese children are now showing evidence of significant heart disease as young as age 8 years old.2 Obese children have a higher risk of developing other devastating diseases as well including heart disease, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer that are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death, and which require some of the costliest medical treatments.3

Indeed, the obesity epidemic is also very costly for its sufferers, contributing to over $190 billion a year in related medical revenues for the Healthcare Industry. That’s up from $147 billion just ten years before– a 43% increase in related revenues for BigHealth over just a ten year period4, tracking closely with ever increasing rates of obesity.


It may seem oblique to reference financial analysis in assessing such epidemics of disease as childhood obesity or heart disease, but with $Trillions at stake for the healthcare industry, an assessment of these diseases and their treatment versus prevention without considering market factors would be naive and incomplete.

Sugar has long been blamed for America’s growing epidemic of childhood obesity. But over the past two decades, sugar consumption has actually dropped by 14%, while obesity rates have increased exponentially. Of course, saturated fat intake is also associated with weight gain and obesity*, including childhood obesity*. But over the same period, the consumption of cow’s milk, high in saturated fat, has also decreased, as independent (non-corporate-funded) science has made much clearer the myriad negative health impacts of consuming cow’s milk, including obesity5 as well as heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and other devastating diseases.


However, as the consumption of cow’s milk has decreased over the past few decades, two other much deadlier dairy foods have gained dominant share in Americans’ daily diet: cheese and butter. Since 1970, Americans have doubled their butter intake6 and more than tripled their cheese intake from 11 lbs of cheese per person in 1970 to 36.9 lbs per person as of 20177. Butter and cheese are now the leading sources of saturated fat in Americans’ diet, and both are loaded with cholesterol, sodium, and among the most calorie dense foods per volume.


It takes about 17 lbs of milk to produce one lb of butter and about 10 lbs of milk to produce one lb of cheese. As a result, the decreases in fluid milk consumption over the past few decades has been more than offset by the exponential increases in Americans’ growing consumption of butter and cheese8.


The exponential increases in Amercans’ consumption of cheese and butter (and thereby the exponential increase in Americans’ dairy saturated fat intake) over the past few decades was not the result of natural consumer demand as the corporate media typically portrays it9. Increased increased dairy fat consumption was the result of a mass consumer marketing campaign launched by the USDA in collaboration with BigDairy and the fast-food industry beginning back in 2000.



Industry insiders referred to the campaign internally as “Triggering the Crave”, an industry-wide initiative to increase demand for dairy products by adding more dairy items to fast food menus. The campaign included Wendy’s Cheddar Lover’s Bacon Cheeseburger, which sold 2.25 million pounds of cheese, 380 tons of fat, and 1.2 tons of cholesterol10; Burger King’s Extreme Double Cheeseburger, which had two slices each of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese plus cheese sauce; Pizza Hut’s Insider Pizza, which had a pound of six different cheeses; and Taco Bell’s Steak Quesadilla, which used eight times more cheese than other items on their menu,”Other fast food giants have added “cheesier” products as well, including McDonald’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell, and Subway.


As Dr. Neil Barnard reported in an article from The Hill, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include a photograph of a cheeseburger and a slice of pepperoni pizza, warning Americans to avoid these cheese-smothered products. Good advice. After all, cheeseburgers and pizza are loaded with calories, saturated fat, and sodium, and they are fueling America’s epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and hypertension. So why does the USDA undercut its own educational effort by overseeing..promotions with Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, and other fast-food outlets to push consumers to buy new, even cheesier versions of these same foods?”


It was Dr. Barnard’s organization, The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine that exposed the USDA’s collaboration with BigDairy and the fast food industry. “There is no way to reconcile the USDA’s oversight of [this campaign] with the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which lists pizza, burgers, and dairy as leading sources of saturated fat” which the USDA has admitted has a “strong relationship” with the development of cardiovascular disease.



In a New York Times article titled, While Warning About Fat, [the USDA] Pushes Cheese, journalist Michael Moss reports on the USDA’s inherent conflict of interest with BigDairy. Moss revealed that the USDA provides an annual budget of around $140 million to promote cheese for BigDairy, but only provides less than 5% ($6.5 million) of that amount to promote healthful eating via its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. “The same agency at the center of the federal anti-obesity drive is supposed to discourage over-consumption of [dairy saturated fat]..yet the [USDA]..is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.”


In lobbying support for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama cited the proliferation of such fat-laden foods as cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese in the diet of America’s youth. “In our fight against childhood obesity, I want to challenge every restaurant to offer healthy menu options,” she told the National Restaurant Association at their annual meeting. Eventually, the bill was passed setting new nutrition standards and allocating $4.5 billion for their implementation. But as Michael Moss reported, “in a series of confidential agreements approved by the Obama administration..,” the USDA and BigDairy “instead worked with restaurants to expand their menus with cheese-laden products.” Similar “confidential agreements” between the USDA and BigDairy to mass market cheese foods happened during the Bush administration as well, reported Moss.





In summary, the independent (non-corporate-funded) research has proven that while Americans’ consumption of sugar and fluid cow’s milk has decreased significantly over the past two decades, rates of childhood obesity and obesity in America have increased exponentially over that timeframe. That saturated fats in dairy-based foods11, especially cheese and butter are linked to increased risk of obesity, including childhood obesity12. That, as Dr. Neil Barnard pointed out, even the USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include a photograph of a cheeseburger and a slice of pepperoni pizza, warning Americans to avoid these cheese-smothered products because of their “strong association” with risk of cardiovascular disease13.


Indeed, as Mike Rayner, Professor of Population Health at Oxford University has observed, “saturated dairy fat is at the very top of the danger hierarchy for cardiovascular disease and strokes.” And since cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Americans, Doctors Against Dairy has previously concluded that the consumption of increased dairy is the leading cause of mortality in Americans.


Doctors Against Dairy therefore concludes that dairy-based foods, particularly cheese- and butter-based foods are the leading co-factors in America’s epidemic of obesity and childhood obesity.


Further, as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Moss explained: despite the USDA’s oversight of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for the past two decades, the USDA has actively worked against its own anti-obesity campaign to mass market fat-laden cheese and butter products for the Dairy Industry.


Doctors Against Dairy further concludes that American citizens have been deceived and potentially defrauded by the USDA in its long-established pattern of collusion with the Dairy Industry to knowingly promote industry profits at the expense of Americans’ health. And that US citizens should call on their congressional representatives to establish a congressional inquiry into this long-standing pattern of corruption between the USDA and the dairy industry, and its devastating impacts on American’s health.




  1. Obesity Report, “Adult Obesity Facts, Obesity is common, serious & costly,” Overweight & Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,CDC 24/7: Saving Lives, Protecting PeopleTM, August 13, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

  2. Linyuan Jing, Cassi M Friday, Jonathan D Suever, Nivedita Umasankar, Christopher M Haggerty, et al, “Abstract 15439: Obese Children With Concentric Hypertrophy and Impaired Cardiac Strain: A Potentially High-risk Subgroup Identified With Cardiac Magnetic Resonance,” Circulation, AHAJournals.com, November 6, 2015, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/circ.132.suppl_3.15439

  3. Obesity Report, Overweight & Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  4. Eric A Finkelstein; Justin G Trogdon; Joel W Cohen; William Dietz, “Annual Medical Spending Attributable To Obesity: Payer-And Service-Specific Estimates,” Health Affairs, 2009, https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.28.5.w822

  5. Catherine M. Phillips, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot, Ross McManus, Serge Hercberg, Denis Lairon, Richard Planells, Helen M. Roche, “High Dietary Saturated Fat Intake Accentuates Obesity Risk Associated with the Fat Mass and Obesity–Associated Gene in Adults,” The Journal of Nutrition, Oxford Academic, May 2012, https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/142/5/824/4630756

  6. Epidemiology & Genomics Research Program, “Top Food Sources of Saturated Fat Among U.S. Population 2005-2006,” National Cancer Institute, Div of Cancer Control & Population Sciences, April 20, 2018, https://epi.grants.cancer.gov/diet/foodsources/sat_fat/sf.html

  7. Catherine S. Berkey, ScD; Helaine R. H. Rockett, MS, RD; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; et al, “Milk, Dairy Fat, Dietary Calcium, and Weight Gain, A Longitudinal Study of Adolescents,” JAMA Pediatrics, JAMA Network, June 2005, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/486041

  8. Catherine S. Berkey, ScD, JAMA Pediatrics

  9. Leslie Patton, “Americans Are Eating More Butter Than Ever,” Food, Bloomberg, March 14, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-14/a-fatty-staple-once-public-health-enemy-no-1-makes-a-comeback

  10. Jeanine Bentley, “Trends in U.S. Per Capita Consumption of Dairy Products, 1970-2012,” Statistic: Food Consumption & Demand, Amber Waves Magazine, United States Department of Agriculture, June 2, 2014, https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2014/june/trends-in-us-per-capita-consumption-of-dairy-products-1970-2012/

  11. Mary Ellen Shoup, “US Consumers Continue to Eat More Cheese,” Food Navigator US, https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2019/01/30/US-consumers-continue-to-eat-more-natural-and-processed-cheeses

  12. Erica Chayes Wida, “What’s America’s favorite cheese? It’s actually not American,” Today.com, NBC Universal, June 4, 2018, https://www.today.com/food/these-are-america-s-favorite-cheeses-t130147

  13. Dr. Neal Barnard, “USDA’s fast-food partnerships to push cheese is a health conflict,” The Hill, April 8, 2018, https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/382123-usdas-fast-food-partnerships-to-push-cheese-is-a-health-conflict

  14. Jeanine Bentley, Statistic: Food Consumption & Demand, Amber Waves Magazine

  15. ibid

  16. Dr. Neal Barnard, The Hill