Is raw, organic cow’s milk better for you than pasteurized milk?

Or does the evidence suggest that both kinds are equally dangerous to your health?

At first glance, it might seem that the words raw and organic automatically confer health benefits. That is certainly true when it comes to vegetables, but cow’s milk, for all of the many reasons I’ve cited in this book, presents a host of chemical problems and toxic Trojan Horses for human consumers. Pasteurization is a process that uses heat to kill the bacteria always present in raw milk. These bacteria are varied and can trigger illnesses ranging from mild to severe in their symptoms. The bacteria include Brucella, Campylobacter, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, Salmonella, and Yersinia.1

Symptoms of infection from these bacteria in raw milk or dairy products made from raw milk include diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever. More severe symptoms range from a neurological disease (Guillain-Barre syndrome) to renal failure in children and the elderly with E. coli 0157:H7 infection, and miscarriage or fetal death when Listeria monocytogenes infects a pregnant woman.

In the ten year period ending in 2008, data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 85 major outbreaks of infections in people consuming raw milk or dairy products, particularly cheese, made from raw milk. These were only the outbreaks actually recorded, involving several thousand people, since many foodborne illness incidents are unreported.

Those who promote the consumption of raw milk as “nature’s perfect food” do so by pointing to how pasteurization destroys vitamins in the milk. In 2011 a team of Canadian researchers reviewed 40 studies conducted over the years that assessed the effects of pasteurization on vitamin levels. What the studies together revealed was that vitamins B12 and E did decrease following pasteurization, but the levels of vitamin A increased.

“The effect of pasteurization on milk’s nutritive value was minimal because many of these vitamins are naturally found in relatively low levels,” wrote the scientists in the Journal of Food Protection.

The pasteurized milk industry has tried to blame the raw milk industry for a lot of health risks, some justified, some not. One bad rap on raw milk that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny is that it’s more of a cancer threat to humans than the pasteurized variety. A 2008 study in the journal Cancer Causes Control evaluated the evidence and concluded: “consumption of unpasteurized milk does not increase risk of cancer.”

Organic milk sold in the U.S. is often ultra-pasteurized, which means it has been heated to temperatures beyond even that for regular pasteurized milk (280 degrees Fahrenheit as opposed to 161 degrees) so its shelf life can be extended. But that adds nothing to its safety or quality. “Milk that’s ultra-pasteurized isn’t any safer or more nutritious,” observed a 2012 Health.com article.

So do you still want to consume raw milk in the belief that it is superior in health benefits to the processed variety? Despite all of the research, consumers seem to believe that buying ‘organic’ dairy products immunizes them from ill effects. Others believe eating only low-fat dairy will protect them from health maladies. A few even argue that raw milk is ‘nature’s’ health answer. Many more humans don’t even try to convince themselves of the various health rationalizations and just gorge themselves mindlessly on high-fat dairy.Whichever self-deluding mind game you play around dairy use, any option short of eliminating dairy entirely from your diet is subjecting yourself to that blindfolded journey through a minefield of potential health problems.

 

Article By | Brian Clement, PhD, LN

 

“Raw Milk and Raw Dairy Products.” California Department of Public Health. www. cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/RawMilk.aspx. 

Macdonald LE. Et al. “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of pas-teurization on milk vitamins, and evidence for raw milk consumption and other health-related outcomes.” J Food Prot. 2011 Nov;74(11):1814–32.

Sellers TA. Et al. “Unpasteurized milk consumption and subsequent risk of cancer.” Cancer Causes Control. 2008 Oct;19(8):805–11.

Sally Kuzemchak. “Which milk is best for you?” Health.com. Dec. 10, 2012.

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