While the researchers could not explain what was responsible for this association, they say that calcium in the dairy products may have some role to play.
The precise definition of 'metabolic syndrome' has proved controversial but many doctors do agree that having a combination of different heart disease risk factors puts people at higher risk of the disease.
The risk factors commonly cited include large waist circumference, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol and high blood glucose levels.
The use of different definitions has made it difficult to estimate the prevalence of metabolic syndrome although recent data from Australia and the US provides a broad estimate of 20-25 per cent of the adult population.
But there are clearer figures for diabetes - the US' fifth cause of death by disease and a condition that develops as a result of many of the metabolic syndrome factors - as well as heart disease, the world's number one killer, according to WHO.
This makes new research into preventing development of these conditions valuable.
Although previous studies showed some benefits from dairy consumption with respect to obesity and insulin resistance syndrome, epidemiologic data on the association between dairy intakes and metabolic syndrome are sparse, write the scientists from the Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran.
They assessed dairy consumption and features of metabolic syndrome in a cross-sectional study of 827 men and women. Metabolic syndrome was defined according to guidelines of the Adult Treatment Panel III.
People in the highest quartile of dairy consumption were more than a third less likely to have a large waist size, and almost 30 per cent less likely to have high blood pressure.
A growing body of research suggests that eating dairy foods may in fact prevent weight gain.
Metabolic syndrome incidence was 29 per cent less likely among people with the highest dairy intake.
"The odds rations became weaker after further adjustment for calcium intake," write the researchers in this month's issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (vol 82, no 3, pp523-530).