There has been a surge of interest lately in whether or not raw milk is better than the pasteurized milk. Raw milk is milk straight from the cow, it has not been pasteurized (using heat to kill bacteria such as E.Coli, salmonella and listeria that might be present) or homogenized (using special machines to force milk through the machine to create an even consistency in the milk). All raw milk has bacteria in it. Good bacteria in milk is what gives flavor to cheeses. Bad bacteria in milk is what can cause disease and food poisoning. Young children, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to be affected by bad bacteria in the milk. Before the invention and acceptance of pasteurization, raw milk was a common source of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, diphtheria, severe streptococcal infections, typhoid fever, and other foodborne illnesses. The high number of these diseases is actually what led to pasteurization.
Is raw milk more nutritious?
According to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1993 and 2006 more than 1500 people in the United States became sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk. In fact, the CDC and FDA are decidedly against raw milk.Many, many studies have shown that pasteurization does not significantly change the nutritional value of milk – pasteurized milk is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and other nutrients. Heat slightly affects a few of the vitamins found in milk– thiamine, vitamin B12, and vitamin C– but milk is only a minor source of these vitamins anyway so it is not a great loss.
So what’s the benefit of drinking raw milk?
One of the main arguments for drinking raw milk is that it can help kids with allergies. A study performed in Europe in 2007 showed that children who drank raw milk were less likely to develop allergies and asthma as they grew older. However, this is only one study and the numbers are not really significant enough to prove that raw milk is an effective treatment to prevent allergies and asthma in all children.
So is processed milk completely safe?
The short answer is not always. Pasteurization does not always kill all pathogens. The bacteria for Johne’s disease, with which most cows on commercial farms are infected, survives pasteurization; it has been linked to causing Crohn’s disease (a gastrointestinal disease) in humans.
Another milk source, powdered skim milk, can be a source of dangerous oxidized cholesterol and neurotoxic amino acids. Powdered skim milk is added to 1% and 2% milk for flavor and consistency.
So what’s a crunchy milk drinker supposed to do?!?!
The risk of drinking unpasteurized milk and ingesting dangerous bacteria does not outweigh the small amount of lost nutrients. The best option is to get pasteurized organic whole milk from grass-fed, hormone free cows, preferably “free range” cows. This milk is usually the safest. The cows are not kept in the usual environment of commercial farms that causes growth of bad bacteria. These cows are also not fed the feed full of chemicals and given the hormones that can cause harm to humans. Since it is pasteurized it also will most likely kill any bad bacteria. The slight risk is still there but it won’t be as bad as raw milk.
In order to make up for the lost nutrients in the pasteurized milk, you can take a daily multivitamin (which you should be doing anyway). This will replace the small amount of nutrients lost in the pasteurization process. Take an organic multivitamin everyday for overall health.