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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

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

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

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

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

Could it be possible that those who are getting sick from raw milk are getting their raw milk from cows that are given steroids?

Anonymous

06/07/2013 - 12:57pm

i just came across this today been Jun 5th 2013, i will give a tryer to this for a month and see it effect.

Anonymous

06/05/2013 - 7:39am

Raw milk isn't available for purchase legally in Australia, so it's lucky that I live on a dairy with my dairy-hand partner. Since I switched to raw milk [even though I'm not really a big milk drinker, definitely less than a glass/day], my hair has grown strong and long very quickly [whereas I've have very slow-growing and weak hair in the past], and I've had far less stomach upsets. I haven't had any negative effects such as cancer/listeriosis/death that I keep hearing about. When I discussed the switch with my grandparents [who are in their eighties] they recalled growing up drinking raw milk left out on the veranda - no fancy refrigeration! I do refrigerate my raw milk, however I've often left it out on the bench during winter with no ill effects [although it does speed up the souring process]. Is it any wonder that the "first world" populations seem to be getting sicker and fatter when we take beautiful, natural, nutritious products, and kill all the beneficial bacteria? Don't get me started on homogenisation either. It's about time the people were given the choice to make informed decisions on the food products they consume, not the government bodies. Rant end.

Anonymous

04/29/2013 - 1:08pm

I see coments here like "when I was young I drank only raw milk and nothing happened to me", here is what I got to say, I grew up in Poland in 1980`s 1990`s and not only me, but my whole family and the whole village and other villages next to mine had nothing else but raw milk, and I never heard of anybody getting sick from milk or getting one of those bacteria that FDA scares us with.

Anonymous

03/02/2013 - 9:51pm

My naturapathic strongly suggested raw milk and a very clean local farmer. Just like anything "new" she tells me at first I am surprised and a bit skeptical, so I research obsessively on the web. I am a type 1 diabetic with other issues, so I definitely was "scared" to try it at first. Just like any mainstream nutritional news/information we are given from the FDA and American Diabetes Association it's mostly WRONG, and outdated. Remember when butter was bad and everyone was using "margarine", remember they said to stay away from eggs, come to find out the cholesterol in eggs is NOT what raises your cholesterol, remember and still currently the push on Equal and Splenda products and good old Sweet n Low, was touted for diabetics and is still being pushed!!!!!!!!!!!!! and two of them Equal and Splenda are known to mess up blood sugar.These associations'agencies still recommend low fat diary products, which are higher in sugars/carbohydrates are mechanically messed with and not "really" that natural. Etc.
If people are getting sick from raw milk, is there a list of these dirty dairies? A list of state s/ counties that have the best and least government standards inspection of dairy farm standards? Should we possibly use a cooler to keep it cool when it's hot out, when we bring it home if it wasn't a dirty dairy? Anyhow, I have a green tea buzz going on and I've never felt better, switching to whole fat, grass fed raw milk. mOOOOve over to Raw Milk and really don't be scared. Remember the government told us to use DDT in our pillows and sheets, coca cola had originally put cocaine in their soda, and Wonder bread was considered healthy when I was growing up, and way back when the "norm" thought that if you traveled far into the ocean you would fall off the edge of the earth because the world was flat. I stopped my statin, Zocor and have never felt better. We need cholesterol for our brain function not just 2 year olds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Moo {:(o) and healthy cows are cute to boot, go visit your local dairy and see for yourself the conditions and actually meet the farmer, ask your supermarket if you can meet their farmers and they'll look at you cross-eyed and befuddled.

Anonymous

01/30/2013 - 7:15am

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