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Q. Is Raw Milk More Nutritious than Pasteurized Milk?

By Matthew G. Kadey, R.D., September/October 2008

Is Raw Milk More Nutritious than Pasteurized Milk?

A. It depends on who you ask. Raw milk—milk that is not pasteurized or homogenized—is making its way into more cereal bowls, with 29 states now allowing the sale of raw milk under varying restrictions. Raw-milk proponents will pay upwards of $10 a gallon, because they believe it is safe and healthier. A swell of testimonials about raw milk’s ability to relieve asthma, autism and allergies is further fueling the demand, though much of this praise remains anecdotal with few studies to back up these claims. Enthusiasts claim raw milk dishes out more flavor, vitamins, minerals and beneficial proteins, enzymes and bacteria than milk that has been “degraded” during pasteurization.

But the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA beg to differ, stating that pasteurized milk has all the same nutrients as raw milk and that raw milk comes with an added formidable risk of pathogen outbreaks. According to the CDC, these outbreaks accounted for more than 1,000 illnesses, more than 100 hospitalizations and two deaths between 1998 and 2005.

Catherine W. Donnelly, Ph.D., a food microbiologist at the University of Vermont, believes that the dangers cancel out any potential nutritional benefits. “Of particular concern is Listeria [a bacterium that results in a foodborne illness, listeriosis], which has a 30 percent mortality rate,” Donnelly warns. “If raw milk is your choice, it’s buyer beware.” When USDA scientists collected raw milk samples from 861 farms in 21 states, nearly a quarter of them contained bacteria linked to human illness, including 5 percent that tested positive for Listeria.

In short, it’s still too early to tell if raw milk lives up to its purported benefits, but the risks are real. We don’t recommend drinking raw milk or eating a raw-milk cheese that’s been aged less than the minimum of 60 days required for legal sale. (However, that caveat doesn’t apply to raw-milk cheeses aged 60 days or more, since the salt and acidity of the cheesemaking process make for a hostile environment to pathogens, says Donnelly.)

Deciding whether to take the risks associated with drinking raw milk is only one of the health-related choices you need to make when it comes to choosing the best milk for your family. When making a decision about which milk to buy, here are two other issues you may want to consider:

Fat content. Nutrition experts recommend drinking low-fat (a.k.a. 1%) or nonfat milk to limit intake of the saturated fats that boost risk of heart disease. Don’t be fooled: reduced-fat, or 2%, milk is not a low-fat food. One cup has 5 grams fat, 3 of them the saturated kind. Drink whole milk, which contains 5 grams of saturated fat per cup, only once in a while, if at all. The one exception to this rule is infants. Children under age 2 need extra fat in their diets to support their developing brains. Whole milk can help provide that fat.

Lactose. Up to 50 million Americans lack the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk. For these people, drinking most milks can cause digestive problems. Solution: Choosing lactose-free milk. This product is basically regular cow’s milk minus lactose. It provides all of the same healthful nutrients (e.g., protein and calcium), just not the sugar that stokes the digestive issues.

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

I believe consuming raw milk is acceptable under some conditions. Espacially by following good hygiene and reducing the holding time. If the udders are cleaned well before milking source of contamination can be controlled.
Also if consuming raw milk the risk of getting ill would be less if consumed quickly. The raw milk by standing in ambient temperature for long time will cause the normal flora to multiply rapidly and getting it contaminated.

Anonymous

10/20/2013 - 5:12am

I do not drink raw milk, if I did, I would make sure the cows the milk comes from, are not on a diet with animals by products, that is where one of the major problems start. This where the mad cow disease comes from, cows eating other animals in their feed.

Anonymous

10/09/2013 - 3:37pm

1000 people became sick? Really? I wonder if the FDA and their industrialized food cronies have the guts to bring up chicken, beef or pork born food illness during the same time period. Pfft. Pathetic story based on facts alone - not to mention you sound like a sponsored, sell-out food rag at this point.

Anonymous

09/26/2013 - 12:37pm

This article is cmpletely foolish

Anonymous

09/15/2013 - 8:41pm

I can't believe this guy is allowed to put the initials R.D. beside his name, or any initials. Yes, anyone linking saturated fat to heart disease obviously doesn't own a computer. If you did, you'd surely have searched for and read 'The Great Cholesterol Con' by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick. When my M.D. tries to tell me suggested cholesterol levels I stop him short and just ask for my results. Ideal is muh higher than what the M.D. says. My bro-in-law is a pharma salesman in Seattle and it is shocking the way drug companies control the dissemination of health myths by buying off doctors. His job is to wine and dine them (literally). Statins anyone? Been drinking raw milk now for 4 years and I would never go back to that store-bought swill. All of my relatives drank it their whole lives (all of them were settlers here in Saskatchewan) and guess what, they all lived into their 80's and 90's. My grandfather used to sop up bacon grease with his toast after eating 5 eggs every morning. Died at 92 of OLD AGE. Same way I wanna go.

Anonymous

09/07/2013 - 6:33pm

I do heavy Olympic weightlifting as well as high intensity running. I have been using raw milk as a recovery drink for about a year. For last two weeks I haven't had time to get my raw milk. In those two weeks my joints have hurt, my muscle have been very sore, and my recovery time from my workouts have nearly doubled. I will always drink raw milk.

Anonymous

08/31/2013 - 8:10am

I used to be one of those people that said I would never drink raw milk but now I would not drink anything but.

Anonymous

08/20/2013 - 12:24am

Yes I am thinking that raw milk is more beneficial then the pasteurized milk and also as a Muslim i am saying that our prophet PBUH used to drink only the raw milk and we didn't find any special type of /or big disease to them (Although all of his life is fully record. )
and the reason for this is not only that in ancient time there was no concept of the pasteurizing the milk because we know (from history ) that the people of ancient time were not suffering from most of the today's diseases and this is the sign that there was a great immunity in them (against diseases ) .
that's All
thanks

Anonymous

08/04/2013 - 10:38pm

Oh gawd. How can I take this article seriously when you are linking saturated fat to heart disease? No credibility.

Anonymous

07/19/2013 - 7:44am

1000 illnesses in ten years? Haha what a laughable excuse for government regulation

Anonymous

07/17/2013 - 8:16pm

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