Many farmers claim that unpasteurized milk straight from the farm has the ability to protect against allergies, asthma and eczema if drank from childhood. Is this true? Could raw milk offer some kind of magical shield against certain common health problems? Well, a recent study has an answer — or at least the beginnings of an answer.
Pasteurization involves heating milk to a temperature that kills off dangerous organisms, such as viruses, bacteria and molds. These organisms have the potential to make you very sick. For this reason, raw milk is not considered safe.
A team of researchers from Europe and the U.S. decided to look into the aforementioned claim made on behalf of unpasteurized milk. A study was done on 14,893 children aged 5¬ to 13 years old. The kids were from Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. Some were from farm families and some were attending schools in more urban settings. The parents filled out questionnaires on the foods their kids ate (including a section on dairy) and where they got their food (directly from the farm or from the store). Family history of health issues (including allergies, asthma and eczema) was also taken. The researchers performed blood tests on the kids in the study. The levels of a substance linked to immune system problems — “immunoglobulin E” — were measured for each participant. In this way, they could tell who was prone to asthma, allergies, or eczema and who was not.
The researchers found that children who had drank farm- fresh milk were 26% less likely to suffer from asthma, 33% less likely to experience hay fever, and a startling 58% less likely to have a food allergy. These numbers are quite significant. Furthermore, it didn’t matter whether the milk had been boiled or not; the results were the same. Note that the risk for eczema was not reduced with the consumption of raw milk.
But should you drink or eat unpasteurized milk or related products? The current answer would be, “NO!”. Milk is pasteurized for a reason. Now that they have seen the good health effects of pasteurized milk, scientists have to take their research further. They must figure out what component of milk could help prevent immune problems like asthma and allergies. Is it a kind of friendly bacteria? Is it a fatty acid? Researchers are not quite sure yet. They are hoping to be able to isolate the immune-boosting substance. Or at least figure out a way to keep this healthy property in safely pasteurized milk. Until then, stick to pasteurized!