Raw Milk: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More!  - PharmEasy Blog (2024)

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2more

Raw Milk: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More! - PharmEasy Blog (1) Medically reviewed byDr Rajeev Singh

Raw Milk: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More! - PharmEasy Blog (2)Last updated: Jul 3, 2024

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Table of Contents

Key Highlights:

  • Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurised or hom*ogenised.
  • Nutritional profile of raw milk includes vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, proteins, and enzymes.
  • Common health claims about raw milk focus on better nutrient content than pasteurised milk.
  • Raw milk can be produced with high levels of hygiene and safety using proper practices.
  • There are legal regulations and safety measures for raw milk production and sales.

Introduction

An important topic of debate these days is if raw milk is better than pasteurised milk in terms of health benefits. Supporters of raw milk are driven by the possible benefits of a natural, unprocessed food item. On the other side, health professionals and regulators underline the potential risks tied to raw milk use, like falling ill from bad bacteria. In this article, we’ll delve into the nutritional content of raw milk. We’ll also look at its potential health benefits. Additionally, we’ll check out the cleanliness, safety steps, and legal rules surrounding raw milk production and sale.

Raw Milk: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More! - PharmEasy Blog (3)


Did you know?

  • Raw milk can be a source of foodborne illness due to potential contamination with harmful germs. source: CDC
  • Pasteurized milk offers the same nutritional benefits as raw milk without the risks of foodborne illness. source: CDC
  • Raw milk consumption poses a significant risk of foodborne illnesses such as campylobacteriosis, E. coli, salmonellosis, listeriosis, and brucellosis. source: doh.sd.gov
  • Pasteurization kills harmful organisms in milk, reducing the risk of diseases such as listeriosis, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis. source: FDA

What is Raw Milk?

Raw milk is getting popular globally. It is different from pasteurised milk. In the section below, we will delve deeper into understanding what raw milk is, where it comes from, and what the pasteurisation process entails.

Definition and Sources

In simple words, raw milk has not been pasteurised or hom*ogenised. It mainly comes from cows, but you can also get it from goats, sheep, buffalo, and even camels. The task of supplying safe raw milk for direct use falls on the farmers making it. These raw milk farmers take extra steps to maintain good cleanliness habits during the milking process. They make sure their animals are healthy and free from sickness.

Raw Milk vs. Pasteurised Milk

One key point where raw and pasteurised milk differ is that raw milk hasn’t gone through the pasteurisation process. This process kills bad germs but keeps the needed nutrients as they are. People who support raw milk think it offers more health benefits than pasteurised milk. They say it has a higher content of amino acids, antimicrobials, vitamins, minerals, and other natural items. Yet, these claims haven’t been backed by solid science. This has refocused attention on the safety aspect of raw milk in recent years.

The Pasteurisation Process

Pasteurisation heats milk to a set temperature for a certain time to kill any harmful bacteria present. This step also makes milk products last longer, making them safer to drink. The most common method used is High-Temperature Short Time pasteurisation. This heats milk to at least 161°F (72°C) for 15 seconds. Another often-used process is the Ultra-Heat Treatment. This heats milk to 275°F (135°C) for a few seconds, greatly extending its shelf life further.

Nutritional Profile of Raw Milk

Raw milk is rich in many nutrients needed for the body. In this section, we’ll give you a detailed look at the makeup of raw milk.

1. Vitamins and Minerals

Raw milk is filled with vitamins and minerals. These include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and small elements like zinc, selenium, and copper. It also has fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Additionally, it has some B-complex vitamins like thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), and cobalamin (B12).

2. Fatty Acids

Raw milk has several vital fatty acids, like saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats found in raw milk include palmitic, myristic, and stearic acids. Meanwhile, the unsaturated fats include oleic acid (monounsaturated) and linoleic acid (polyunsaturated). Both these are needed for normal body functions and energy production. Add to that, it’s a source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). This has been tied to health benefits such as guarding against certain cancers, improved immune system, and less body fat.

3. Proteins

Proteins have a vital part in the make-up and working of living beings. Raw milk has around 8 grams of protein per cup. This is mainly made up of casein and whey proteins. Casein is 80% of the total milk protein, while whey makes up the remaining 20%. Both casein and whey proteins are easy to absorb and rich in vital amino acids. They help with muscle growth, maintenance, and repair.

4. Enzymes

Raw milk has various enzymes, like alkaline phosphatase, lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, and many others. These enzymes have many functions. They range from breaking down nutrients like fats and proteins to aiding digestion and supporting immunity. Some enzymes may also ward off microbes. Yet, most of these enzymes are killed or made inactive during pasteurisation.

Common Claims about the Potential Benefits of Raw Milk

Over time, there have been many claims about the benefits of drinking raw milk. Some of these are based on stories and personal experiences. Others might be backed by science.

Claim 1: Pasteurised Milk Has Fewer Nutrients

One of the most popular claims about raw milk is that it has more nutrients than pasteurised milk as it does not undergo the pasteurisation process. While it’s true that pasteurising milk may bring down some of the vitamin content (mainly B-complex vitamins and vitamin C), the overall nutrient makeup of both raw and pasteurised milk mostly stays the same. Plus, losses of these vitamins can be replaced by eating other fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Claim 2: Pasteurising Milk Reduces Fatty Acids

Another common claim is that pasteurising milk reduces its fatty acid content. Yet, studies comparing the fatty acid profiles of raw and pasteurised milk find no major differences. Some research suggests that pasteurisation may improve the digestibility of fatty acids by slightly changing their structure.

Claim 3: Pasteurising Milk Destroys Proteins

Some supporters of raw milk say that pasteurisation destroys proteins, making them less useful for the body. While it’s true that the proteins in raw milk may change a bit during the pasteurisation process, many studies say that the overall activity in living beings, the nutritional value, and digestibility of milk proteins remain similar between raw and pasteurised milk.

Claim 4: Raw Milk Safeguards Against Allergies and Asthma

There is growing evidence that drinking raw milk might be tied to a lower risk of asthma and allergies. Studies have shown that eating raw cow’s milk early in life may guard against respiratory infections and lower the risk of asthma and allergic conditions. Yet, more research is needed to figure out the precise links behind this and whether these benefits outweigh the possible risks of drinking raw milk.

Claim 5: Raw Milk Is Better for People with Lactose Intolerance

Some people have trouble digesting lactose, a sugar found in milk, due to a shortage of the enzyme lactase in their intestines. It’s suggested that raw milk is better for those with lactose intolerance. That’s because it has lactase-making bacteria (like Lactobacillus). These get killed during pasteurisation. However, research comparing the effect of raw versus pasteurised milk on people with lactose intolerance found no major difference in digestive symptoms.

Claim 6: Raw Milk Contains More Antimicrobials

Milk naturally has substances that work against microbes, like lactoferrin, immunoglobulin, lysozyme, and lactoperoxidase. Some say that raw milk contains higher amounts of antimicrobials. These can help guard against harmful bacteria and germs. While raw milk may contain more antimicrobials compared to pasteurised milk, pasteurisation does not kill all antimicrobial activity. So, the impact it truly has on human health remains unclear.

Challenging the Claims

While there are many claims about the benefits of raw milk, it’s key to question these assertions critically. It’s important to give consumers the right information to make smart decisions about their milk use.

1. Examining the Nutrient Differences

As discussed, minimal nutrient loss occurs during pasteurisation. Most vitamins and minerals found in raw milk remain in pasteurised milk. And any lost nutrients can easily be replaced with a balanced diet through other food sources. So, the claim that raw milk is nutritionally better than pasteurised milk lacks a solid base.

2. Debunking the Allergy and Asthma Claims

Given that there’s growing evidence suggesting that raw milk use might be linked to a lower risk of asthma and allergies, it’s key to remember that more research is needed. We need to understand the mechanisms behind these ties. It’s also crucial to balance out the possible benefits against the risks related to raw milk drinking. Public health groups currently do not back the overall health benefits of raw milk over pasteurised milk.

3. Addressing Lactose Intolerance

Even though some supporters of raw milk say it’s better for people with lactose intolerance due to lactase-making bacteria, research has not backed this claim. People with lactose intolerance have similar digestive symptoms after drinking raw or pasteurised milk. People with lactose intolerance should keep following diet suggestions given by their healthcare professional.

The Risks of Drinking Raw Milk

Despite various claims and benefits tied to raw milk drinking, there are clear dangers linked to consuming untreated milk. The presence of harmful bacteria and the severity of outbreaks linked to raw milk use cannot be overlooked.

1. Bacteria and Symptoms

Harmful bacteria that may be found in raw milk include Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, and Brucella. These bacteria can cause illness related to food, with symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, headaches, belly pain, feeling sick, and fever. In some cases, more severe issues like Guillain-Barre syndrome, haemolytic uraemic syndrome, miscarriage, reactive arthritis, chronic inflammatory conditions, and death may happen.

2. Who is most at risk?

While anyone can fall ill due to drinking tainted raw milk, certain people are at a higher risk. Pregnant women, young kids, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems are more likely to suffer severe illness from tainted raw milk products.

3. Severity of Raw Milk Outbreaks

Outbreaks of illness linked to raw milk have been noted across various countries. Some caused severe sickness and even death. In recent years, raw milk outbreaks have gone up, especially in places where its sale has become legal. Raw milk producers must follow proper cleanliness and safety steps. This helps limit the risk of foodborne illness tied to raw milk use.

Legalities and Regulations

With the rising interest in raw milk use, knowing the legalities and regulations tied to raw milk production and sales is key. Legal status, safety steps, and oversight change between countries and even states or provinces.

Legal Status of Raw Milk Sales

The legal status of raw milk sales changes greatly across countries and states or provinces. For example, raw milk sales are fully banned in India but in US, there is a mix of rules. Although in some villages of India, raw milk consumption may still be a norm, but across major cities, milk is mostly pasteurized and packaged before sales. In many European countries, raw milk sales are allowed but with strict rules. Germany even has a state-run program called Vorzugsmilch. This ensures high cleanliness and safety standards for raw milk-making production.

Right Safety Measures for Raw Milk Production

Producers of raw milk meant for direct use must stick to strict cleanliness and safety measures. This helps reduce the risk of illness related to food. Such measures include detailed farm safety plans, practicing good animal care, ensuring the right milking hygiene, quickly cooling milk after milking, and maintaining the right cold-chain transport and storage. Regular microbial testing of raw milk and sticking to set guidelines is key to always checking the effectiveness of safety measures put in place.

Conclusion

Drinking raw milk is a highly debated topic that’s sparked a range of opinions and claims about its nutritional value and health benefits. While some think that raw milk provides better nutrition and possible health benefits compared to pasteurised milk, it’s vital to note that most of these claims lack enough scientific backing. The nutrient differences between raw and pasteurised milk are tiny. Both types of milk offer required vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, proteins, and enzymes.

On the other hand, we can’t ignore the risk of illness tied to raw milk use. Several safety steps must be in place for raw milk production and sales. This helps lower the risk of outbreaks related to food and makes sure consumers get the safest product possible. In conclusion, while raw milk and its possible benefits continue to be debated, a thorough approach to cleanliness, safety, and rule-setting is key. This protects the health of those who choose to drink it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it safe for pregnant women to drink raw milk?

Pregnant women are at a higher risk of severe sickness tied to infections from food, and raw milk can house harmful bacteria. It’s generally recommended for pregnant women to avoid drinking raw milk and products made from raw milk. This lowers the risk of possible infection.

How should raw milk be stored to minimise health risks?

To minimise the growth of harmful bacteria, raw milk should be stored at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or colder. It’s advised to drink raw milk within a week of making it and always check for spoilage signs, like a sour taste or bad smell, before drinking it.

Can I make yogurt or cheese from raw milk?

Yes, you can make yogurt and cheese from raw milk. But, it’s key to follow clean habits during the making process and make sure that the raw milk comes from a reliable source. This source should stick to strict safety measures.

Are there reliable sources for buying raw milk?

It’s vital to only buy raw milk from reliable sources. They should follow proper cleanliness, safety steps, and respect local laws. Look for producers who practice good animal care, maintain a clean environment, put in place safety measures, and go through regular tests for harmful bacteria. This ensures the milk is safe for drinking.

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