The Health Corner Vol. 49 – Milk

We have been told that milk is the perfect food and people have come to believe it is necessary to consume it from birth to death. This is primarily because it is commonly believed that milk is high in calcium and we need it to support bone health. But, to me, this assertion raises some interesting questions.

The fact is we drink more milk in the United States than any other country in the world. Now, if milk builds strong bones and we drink a lot of it, why do we still have one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world? Could it have anything to do with how we produce and process our milk supply?

I have found that if we look to nature for our health, that’s where we will find it. We will not find health in the things that man does to alter the natural processes that are already in place. In my opinion and according to other nutritional experts, milk is not really necessary to our health and well-being. But I recognize that people like milk and will drink it and eat products made from it. So this brings up more questions, such as what might be the best form of milk to consume? Should we be drinking raw milk or is pasteurized and homogenized milk the better choice? To determine this it might be best to discuss what these processes are about and what they do to the milk when they are implemented.

Pasteurization is simply the process of heating the milk to such a high temperature that a majority of the bacteria present in it are destroyed. Milk that is pasteurized must contain a count of less than 200,000 bacteria per cubic milliliter. Now, there are people that produce what we might call organic milk; which is to say in part that the milk is not pasteurized. For example, in the state of California, it is legal to sell raw milk; however, there are guidelines as to how much bacteria it can contain when sold to the public. Legally produced raw milk has to have less then 15,000 bacteria per cubic milliliter. That’s some 13 times less than is allowed in milk that is pasteurized. This of course means that raw milk is in fact much ‘cleaner’ than the pasteurized variety.

Another consideration when considering the raw milk versus pasteurized milk debate is what happens to all the bacteria that pasteurization kills? Is it strained out somehow? No. The fact is, it stays in the finished product and we drink it. What are we, as the consumers, supposed to think of drinking what essentially amounts to the dead carcasses of hundreds of thousands of bacteria?

I think we should be concerned, because the fact is, that pasteurization not only kills bacteria, but also destroys a lot of the enzymes and the immune facilitators that would counteract any live bacteria still found in the milk. And, therefore, all possible protection for the consumer is lost.

Another process used in producing commercial milk is the homogenization process. This is the process by which the fat globules in the milk are broken down into very tiny particles. You cannot homogenize milk until it has first been pasteurized, as it will go rancid in a matter of minutes because of the protective coating of fat being exposed to the milk’s natural enzymes. Pasteurization serves to destroy those enzymes which will cause the breakdown of the milk fat and make it go rancid.

If these issues are not enough to consider, it is also true that pasteurization and homogenization both will change the balance of sugar in milk. These processes will also denature the protein, alter the fats, and deplete the milk of nutrients like vitamin C, in addition to killing the enzymes. Shelf life is also significantly reduced in pasteurized/homogenized milk, as opposed to the raw variety.

I am constantly amazed at how fearful people are of drinking raw milk because of the supposed risk of disease, and yet raw milk is much easier for the body to handle in the long run. It is more easily digested and will not cause lactose intolerance to develop, as will milk that has been homogenized and pasteurized. And if the animals producing the milk are allowed to graze over clean, grassy fields instead of being kept in crowded concrete lots where they wallow in their own dung, there is little reason to fear disease in any case.

Unfortunately, there are no points to be scored for pasteurized/homogenized milk in the arena of calcium content, either. While milk is a very good source of calcium in its raw state, it is not so beneficial after being subjected to these processes because they make the calcium impossible to absorb. As a result, although we’re consuming large amounts of milk, we still have the problem of osteoporosis. Add to that the fact that osteoporosis isn’t really a calcium issue anyway and the need for milk is really just a myth we have been sold in this country.

Considering all that I have learned in my research on the matter, I am convinced it is better for us to either eliminate milk from the diet completely or drink it raw. If the cows we drink from are raised in a proper manner there should be little question of safety and the milk will contain a great deal more beneficial nutrition and enzymes. After all, I am sure you’ll agree that when we put anything into our bodies we want it to be as safe and as nutritious as possible, don’t we?

Until next time, here’s to your good health.

Dr. Jon R. Link