Maybe you like the taste of raw milk. (That's more likely because it's grass-fed than because it's raw, but OK.) But if you're chasing after health benefits in raw milk, think again.
Photo by woodleywonderworks.
Since unpasteurised milk comes with an increased risk of food poisoning, any health benefits would have to be pretty amazing to balance out that risk. And the science just doesn't support those benefits — they either don't exist or are so minimal as to make no real difference in health, John Lucey writes in a review of the evidence in the journal Nutrition Today. Among the findings:
- Pasteurisation affects protein structure. This may be relevant if you're making cheese, but it makes no difference in nutrition — your digestive system is going to rip those proteins apart anyway.
- Pasteurisation doesn't change milk's mineral content (minerals don't break down with heat).
Pasteurisation does lower vitamin content — but only slightly:
Pasteurisation may cause very minor losses (<10%) of vitamin C, folate (vitamin B9), vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and thiamine (vitamin B1). Of these vitamins, milk is an excellent source of only vitamin B12 ... Pasteurisation does not change the concentration of riboflavin (B2) (which is very heat stable) or fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A or E.
Those slight losses aren't going to make a big difference in your diet. You weren't relying on milk for your vitamin C intake, for example, and milk still has a ton of vitamin B12 even after pasteurisation.
- Advocates say that raw milk is better for people who are lactose-intolerant, but milk doesn't contain the enzyme that breaks down lactose. If you're mildly lactose intolerant and are looking for a dairy product you can stomach, try yoghurt, which does contain that enzyme.
- Raw milk is sometimes recommended for children with a cow's milk allergy. Lucey writes that while this is a complicated subject and more research is needed, there is currently no evidence to support the idea that raw milk helps or prevents allergies. In mice, raw milk results in a stronger allergic reaction, not a weaker one.
If you're looking for something with less lactose and more pro-biotic ("good") bacteria than supermarket milk, you're better off buying yoghurt instead of taking on the extra risk and cost of raw milk. The choice is still yours (depending on local laws), but make it on the basis of science and not bogus health claims.
Raw Milk Consumption: Risks and Benefits [Nutrition Today]