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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

Yes, yes Milk is a health hazard. Well- so is our body! It is riddled with germs like staph and e.coli. Sure early in the 20th century disease spread linked to foodborne illnesses- TB and Polio were dreaded common diseases. As was "the Pox". Increases in hygenie helped NOT to reduce some diseases but cause the health threat; as in the case of Polio.Every infant was exposed and gained immunity via the mother and her milk. Due to overuse of antibiotics we have created Superbugs; Drug Resistant TB and Staph strains. MAYBE some common sense and hygenie are what is called for rather than trying to create a new chemical to eradicate all germs. Dairymaids were caretakers of smallpox stricken, due to cowpox being in the same family; and the maids acquiring an immunity. Listeria has been found in fastfood burgers and spinach- continuing to point a finger at raw milk (or raw foods) only helps to keep us a society dependent on drug companies to maintain our health. If you know your farmer know their farming practices you should know how hygienic their practices and hos healthy their stock. Raw milk is not the enemy.

Anonymous

06/09/2013 - 5:31pm

The negative things said about raw milk by the FDA is just a marketing scheme for commercial milk companies . God made it the right way the first time and people lived long healthy lives. I and nine siblings were raised on raw milk and none of us ever had any illness associated with raw milk,as a matter of further interest we were raised WITHOUT prescription medicine and none of us ever had any serious illness until adulthood when we started using prescription meds. We worked hard and ate ALL natural foods,none of this low fat,low sugar Stuff. My oldest living sibling is over 82 years old and very strong. I'm the mother of 6 and never had as much as an aspirin till my first pregnancy, my health is still pretty good and I'm going back to the natural foods to improve my health. This includes Raw Milk and NO processed foods or HFCS.

Advocate for whole foods (Gods way)

Anonymous

06/20/2013 - 1:27pm

Growing up in South America i dont remember drinking any other type of milk other than raw cow and/or goat milk. I am 23 yrs old now living in the USA and have never broken any bones despite many falls. I am now almost 3 months pregnant and decided to switch back to raw cows milk despite doctors suggestions having to drive a good 35/40 mins every sunday to the nearest dairy farm to get my weekly milk supply. The FDA spends so much money putting little farms out of business just so they can keep mass producing their hormone "enhanced" milk.They put fear in people of drinking what our ancestors thrived on for sooo long. It is a risk i am willing to take because i know that in the end i am providing myself, and my baby all of the natural nutrients needed for a healthy development. I plan on drinking it for the rest of my life, not just myself but my whole family.

Anonymous

06/24/2013 - 6:38pm

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

Anonymous

07/17/2013 - 8:16pm

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

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

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

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 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

This article is cmpletely foolish

Anonymous

09/15/2013 - 8:41pm

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