Raw milk enthusiasts say that it offers superior health and nutritional benefits and that processing eliminates these advantages. However, government and health experts disagree and advise against drinking it.
Milk is a nutritious food that provides protein, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.
Prior to the introduction of pasteurization in the early to mid-1900s, all milk was drank raw, in its original, unprocessed state.
With the increased appeal of natural, local, farm-sourced goods and the idea that raw milk is healthier, its consumption is expanding.
This article looks at the research to assess the benefits and dangers of drinking raw milk.
What is raw milk?
No heat or homogenization was used in the production of raw milk.
It is most commonly sourced from cows, but goats, sheep, buffalo, and even camels can be used.
Dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and ice cream can all be made with it.
As much as 1% of the U.S. population frequently consumes raw milk.
The pasteurization process
Heat is used in the pasteurization process to eliminate harmful microorganisms like yeasts and molds that could otherwise grow in unpasteurized milk. Additionally, the treatment lengthens the product’s storage time.
High Temperature Short Time pasteurization, in which milk is heated to at least 161°F for 15 seconds, is currently the standard procedure in the United States.
Raw milk is often heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius) for 30 minutes, another standard method used worldwide.
With UHT, milk is heated to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius) for a brief period of time. In some parts of Europe, this milk is a staple.
The typical approach can keep milk fresh for 2–3 weeks, whereas the UHT method can keep it fresh for as long as 9 months.
Milk is homogenized after it is pasteurized, which is a process that uses high pressure to mix the milk’s fats together so that they are more equally distributed and the milk has a better overall texture and flavor.
Common claims about the benefits of raw milk
They claim that raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk because it retains more of the milk’s natural nutrients such as amino acids, antimicrobials, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.
They state that it is a better option for people with lactose intolerance, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and allergies.
To combat a bovine (cow) tuberculosis epidemic in the early 1900s, pasteurization was implemented. Over a span of 25 years, tainted dairy contributed to the deaths of around 65,000 people.
Certain individuals believe that pasteurization is unnecessary because many of the pathogenic microorganisms that it eliminates are no longer a threat, such as tuberculosis.
Pasteurization, they say, destroys the health advantages of milk by destroying its nutrients.
These statements, however, are generally not supported by evidence.
Claim 1: Pasteurized milk has fewer nutrients
Vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, and lipids in milk are not significantly diminished after the pasteurization process.
The water-soluble vitamins B1, B6, B9, B12, and C suffered minimal losses, according to a meta-analysis of 40 trials. Given the negligible amounts of these nutrients in milk to begin with, the losses were minor.
Plus, these vitamins are abundant and can be found in many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and — in the case of vitamin B12 — animal proteins, so it’s not hard to make up for any deficits elsewhere in your diet.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are fat-soluble, are also depleted to a lesser extent during the pasteurization process.
Milk’s high levels of calcium and phosphorus are important for bone and muscle development, cell function, and energy production.
The minerals in this group are extremely resistant to high temperatures. Pasteurized milk provides about 20% of the Daily Value (DV) for phosphorus and 23% for calcium in only one cup.
Claim 2: Pasteurizing milk reduces fatty acids
Raw and pasteurized milk have been studied extensively, and the results show no discernible variations in their fatty acid profiles, while processing may improve the digestion of fatty acids.
Twelve samples of cow’s milk were taken from a single dairy for analysis, and then categorized as either raw, pasteurized, or ultrahigh temperature (UHT). There were no statistically significant variations between the three groups with regard to the abundance of important nutrients or fatty acids.
Claim 3: Pasteurizing milk destroys proteins
When measured in cups, pasteurized milk has 8.26 grams of protein per cup (245 grams).
Casein accounts for roughly 80% of milk protein, while whey makes up the other 20%. Muscle development, insulin sensitivity, and cardiovascular disease risk may all benefit from these.
Casein, being a heat-stable protein, is not denatured during the pasteurization process of milk.
Although whey protein is more easily damaged by heat, pasteurization appears to have little effect on its digestibility and nutritional makeup.
Proteins in pasteurized milk have the same biological activity in the body as proteins in raw milk, according to a study conducted in 2008 on 25 healthy persons who drank raw, pasteurized, or ultra-high temperature milk for a week.
Protein nitrogen absorption was boosted by about 8% in milk that was subjected to ultra-high temperatures (275°F or 135°C for a few seconds).
What are the dangers of drinking raw milk?
Milk is a perfect breeding habitat for bacteria because of its neutral pH and high nutrient and water concentrations.
Milk is produced in what is essentially a sterile environment within the mammal that produces it.
Potential sources of contamination include the udder, skin, excrement, milking equipment, handling, and storage from the moment the animal is milked.
Until significant development occurs, contaminations are undetected because they are invisible to the naked eye.
Pasteurization kills most bacteria, but not necessarily all. However, most of those that do make it through are in a severely compromised, non-viable state.
Raw milk has been shown to have many times the amount of dangerous, foreign microorganisms found in pasteurized milk.
Keep raw or pasteurized milk in the fridge to prevent the growth of bacteria.