Is Raw Milk More Healthful Than Pasteurized Milk?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
[Editor’s Note: The sale of raw milk varies state-by-state. For a detailed listing of raw milk laws in all 50 states, please see our Raw Milk Laws State by State chart.]
Shawn Sieracki, ND, Owner and Naturopath at the Whole Body Healing Center, in a Jan. 2, 2017 article for the Whole Body Healing Center blog titled “Why Raw Milk Is More Healthier and Better Than Pasteurized Milk,” wrote:
“Raw milk from clean dairies (particularly pasture-raised animals) can be as healthy or healthier than pasteurized milk…
Organic raw milk is a complete food, loaded with minerals, protein, good fat, and vitamins. Raw milk contains an amazing selection of minerals ranging from calcium and phosphorus to trace elements. Pasteurization destroys them and they must be re-supplied…
Raw milk is abundant in calcium – legendary for its benefits for teeth, bones etc. It is also loaded with enzymes that have an array of health benefiting functions. Raw milk is alive with beneficial bacteria that aid digestion and protect against disease-carrying organisms…
Some of the main reasons that over 10 million Americans now drink raw milk on a regular basis include: Healthier skin, hair and nails… stronger immune system, reduced allergies, increased bone density, neurological support, weight loss, help building lean muscle mass, better digestion.”Jan. 2, 2017 - Shawn Sieracki, ND
Josh Axe, Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), founder and CEO of DrAxe.com, in an Aug. 30, 2016 article titled “Raw Milk Benefits Skin, Allergies and Immunity,” for his website DrAxe.com, wrote:
“Raw milk benefits are numerous and can help address a large number of nutritional deficiencies that millions of people, especially those eating the standard American diet, are currently experiencing. For instance, raw milk benefits allergies and skin, all while containing beneficial nutrients without the processing dangers.
One serving of raw milk contains about 400 milligrams of calcium, 50 milligrams of magnesium and 500 milligrams of potassium. These minerals are vitally important for cellular function, hydration, building bone density, blood circulation, detoxification, muscle health and metabolism…
Dairy products have gotten a bad rap over the years, but this is actually mostly due to the pasteurization process… [Pasteurization] destroys the digestive enzymes needed to break down and absorb certain nutrients… A survey conducted by the Weston A. Price Foundation found that of 700 families interviewed, amazingly about 80 percent of those diagnosed with lactose intolerance stopped having symptoms when they switched to raw milk.”Aug. 30, 2016 - Josh Axe, DC
Joseph Mercola, DO, osteopathic physician and author, in an Apr. 16, 2016 article for Mercola.com titled “Raw Milk and Cheese Are Undergoing a Renaissance as Artisanal Foods Rise in Popularity,” wrote:
“[Pasteurizing milk] destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamins, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria, and promotes the growth of pathogens.
Meanwhile, raw milk contains:
Apr. 16, 2016 - Joseph Mercola, DO
- Healthy bacteria that are beneficial for your gastrointestinal tract
- More than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies). These enzymes are destroyed during pasteurization, making pasteurized milk harder to digest
- Phosphatase, an enzyme that aids and assists in the absorption of calcium in your bones…
- Beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible
- Vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms. Also has a balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live lactobacilli.”
Linda Melos, ND, primary care naturopathic physician, stated the following in her article “The Health Benefits of Raw Milk,” available at her website (accessed May 31, 2017):
“[P]asteurized milk actually interferes with calcium metabolism… Before heating [pasteurization], milk is a living food rich in colloidal minerals and enzymes necessary for the absorption and utilization of the sugars, fats, proteins and minerals in milk. Raw cream and butter has ‘X Factor’ that prevents joint stiffness.
Eight to ten thousand years ago, raw and fermented milk products began to replace animal bones as a major source of minerals in many cultures. These raw dairy products were known to increase strength, fertility and general health. Present-day cultures whose diets are high in cultured raw dairy products tend to be extremely healthy, long-lived people. (The culturing of raw milk breaks down the lactose, and predigests the milk proteins.) Raw milk that is still warm from the animal has traditionally been used through the centuries for various wasting diseases…
Pasteurizing milk kills off all bacteria, including the health-giving lactobacilli. This allows milk to putrefy with bad bacteria over time, rather than sour or ferment from good lactobacilli. Pasteurization also destroys vitamins, especially C, B6 and B12, and denatures fragile milk proteins. It destroys 20% of the iodine, and makes insoluble the major part of the calcium content.”May 31, 2017 - Linda Melos, ND
Raw Milk Facts, a website advocating raw milk consumption, wrote in an article titled “The Health Benefits of Raw Milk” (accessed May 31, 2017):
“Clean raw milk from pastured cows is a complete and properly balanced food… About 80% of the proteins in milk are caseins – reasonably heat stable but easy to digest. The remaining 20% or so fall into the class of whey proteins, many of which have important physiological effects (bioactivity). Also easy to digest, but very heat sensitive, these include key enzymes (specialized proteins) and enzyme inhibitors, immunoglobulins (antibodies), metal-binding proteins, vitamin binding proteins and several growth factors… Studies have shown significant loss of these important disease fighters when milk is heated to normal processing temperatures…
Lactose, or milk sugar, is the primary carbohydrate in cow’s milk. Made from one molecule each of the simple sugars glucose and galactose, it’s known as a disaccharide. People with lactose intolerance for one reason or another (age, genetics, etc.), no longer make the enzyme lactase and so can’t digest milk sugar. This leads to some unsavory symptoms, which, needless to say, the victims find rather unpleasant at best. Raw milk, with its lactose-digesting Lactobacilli bacteria intact, may allow people who traditionally have avoided milk to give it another try.”May 31, 2017 - Raw-milk-facts.com
The Weston A. Price Foundation’s Campaign for Real Milk explains in the article “What Is Real Milk?,” available on its website (accessed Aug. 15, 2011):
“Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer…
Pasteurization was instituted in the 1920s to combat TB [tuberculosis], infant diarrhea, undulant fever and other diseases caused by poor animal nutrition and dirty production methods. But times have changed and modern stainless steel tanks, milking machines, refrigerated trucks and inspection methods make pasteurization absolutely unnecessary for public protection.”Aug. 15, 2011 - Weston A. Price Foundation
Theodore Beals, MD, former pathologist at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Ann Arbor, MI, in the case of Organic Pastures v. State of California, provided the following testimony on Apr. 25, 2008, in support of raw cow’s milk and against CA legislation (AB 1735) which regulated coliform levels in raw milk:
“Beneficial bacteria provide benefits in a number of ways…[o]ne of the ways that they provide benefit is by producing specific substances which kill other [harmful] bacteria. Another way that they are beneficial to people is that they inhibit the growth of other [harmful] bacteria indirectly rather than just simply killing them. Additionally, they have been shown — beneficial bacteria have been shown to block the entrance of [harmful] bacteria into the body, therefore preventing the illness…
Prebiotic is a substance which when introduced to beneficial bacteria stimulates their growth or stimulates their beneficial activity. A probiotic is defined technically as bacteria, beneficial bacteria, which when added to a product or as a supplement provides those beneficial bacteria to the person that’s drinking the milk. My personal take on this is it’s obvious from the definitions that fresh market – raw market milk is in fact a prebiotic. It does stimulate beneficial organisms. And although not technically meeting the definition of a probiotic because it’s not added, these beneficial bacteria that are present are natively present in [raw] milk.”Apr. 25, 2008 - Theodore Beals, MD
The Organic Consumers Association stated the following in its May 7, 2010 press release “Cow on Boston Common 5-10-2010 for Raw Milk Drink-In,” available at their website:
“Over three million Americans now prefer organic raw milk and raw milk dairy products over pasteurized milk because of its superior nutrition and disease fighting qualities and because it comes from small, local producers who pasture their dairy cows, rather than keeping them confined all day and all year in dairy feedlots on huge, disease-ridden factory farms.”May 7, 2010 - Organic Consumers Association
Solenne Costard, PhD, Senior Consultant at EpiX Analytics, et al, in an article for the June 2017 edition of the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal titled “Outbreak-Related Disease Burden Associated with Consumption of Unpasteurized Cow’s Milk and Cheese, United States, 2009–2014,” available from cdc.gov, wrote:
“Unpasteurized dairy products are responsible for almost all [95%] of the 761 illnesses and 22 hospitalizations in the United States that occur annually because of dairy-related outbreaks caused by STEC [E.coli], Salmonella spp., L. monocytogenes [Listeria], and Campylobacter spp… Consumers of unpasteurized milk and cheese are a small proportion of the US population (3.2% and 1.6%, respectively), but compared with consumers of pasteurized dairy products, they are 838.8 times more likely to experience an illness and 45.1 times more likely to be hospitalized…
An easing of regulations has allowed greater access to unpasteurized milk in recent years, and this study shows that illnesses and hospitalizations will rise as consumption of unpasteurized dairy products increases. If such consumption were to double, the mean number of outbreak-related illnesses that occur every year would increase by 96%. Most unpasteurized dairy-related outbreaks are caused by pathogen contamination at the dairy farm.”June 2017 - Solenne Costard, PhD
Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, CDN, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, and Freelance Writer, in a Jan. 5, 2017 article for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Eat Right blog titled “The Realities of Raw Milk,” wrote:
“Unlike milk you buy at the supermarket, raw milk isn’t pasteurized. When milk is pasteurized, it’s heated to 161°F for just 20 seconds. While that doesn’t affect milk’s nutritional value, it does kill off disease-causing bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli. Illnesses caused by these bacteria can range from diarrhea and vomiting to paralysis, kidney failure and stroke.
Even if raw milk comes from a small, local or organic farm, it’s not necessarily safe. The most hygienic dairy farms are still breeding grounds for bacteria that thrive on cow’s skin, as well as dirt, rodents and feces. When even the smallest amounts of bacteria from these sources pass into milk, they quickly grow and multiply, so laboratory tests can’t always detect them. And you can’t tell if milk is contaminated by drinking, smelling or sipping it either.
When it comes to dairy, a little processing is a good thing. Stick with pasteurized milk and stay safe.”Jan. 5, 2017 - Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, CDN
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in its resource titled “The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk,” available from fda.gov (last updated Sep. 3, 2015), wrote:
“Milk and milk products provide a wealth of nutrition benefits. But raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family…
Raw milk is milk from cows, sheep, or goats that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. This raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses.
These harmful bacteria can seriously affect the health of anyone who drinks raw milk, or eats foods made from raw milk. However, the bacteria in raw milk can be especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women, and children…
Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time. First developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864, pasteurization kills harmful organisms responsible for such diseases as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and brucellosis.
Research shows no meaningful difference in the nutritional values of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk.”Sep. 3, 2015 - US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office stated the following in its Aug. 3, 2011 press release, “Three Arrested on Charges of Illegally Producing, Selling Unpasteurized Milk,” available at their website:
“Pasteurization kills or slows the growth of pathogens and microbes and it must be accomplished according to state standards under sanitary conditions. The process involves the heating of milk to a high temperature for a specific time and then cooling it immediately. The manufacture and sale of unpasteurized [raw] milk products poses a risk of pathogenic contamination. Those pathogens include salmonella, listeria, e-coli, staphylococcus aureus and tuberculosis.”Aug. 3, 2011 - Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
The Centers for Disease Control stated in their June 13, 2008 article “Escherichia Coli 0157:H7 Infections in Children Associated with Raw Milk and Raw Colostrum from Cows,” published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, that:
“Those states that permit the sale and consumption of raw milk report more outbreaks of foodborne disease attributed to raw milk than those states that have stricter regulations. During 1973-1992, raw milk was implicated in 46 reported outbreaks. Nearly 90% of these outbreaks (40 out of 46) occurred in states that allow the sale of raw milk…
Because illnesses associated with raw milk continue to occur, additional efforts are needed to educate consumers and dairy farmers about illnesses associated with raw milk and raw colostrum. To reduce the risk for E. coli O157 and other infections, consumers should not drink raw milk or raw milk products.”
[Editor’s Note: In March, 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report titled “Nonpasteurized Dairy Products, Disease Outbreaks, and State Laws – United States, 1993-1996 (268KB)June 13, 2008 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
, which concluded: “Public health officials at all levels should continue to develop innovative methods to educate consumers and caregivers about the dangers associated with nonpasteurized dairy products. State officials should consider further restricting or prohibiting the sale or distribution of nonpasteurized dairy products within their states. Federal and state regulators should continue to enforce existing regulations to prevent distribution of nonpasteurized dairy products to consumers. Consumption of nonpasteurized dairy products cannot be considered safe under any circumstances.”]
John F. Sheehan, JD, Director of Plant and Dairy Food Safety at the US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, stated the following in his Mar. 15, 2007 testimony before the Health and Government Operations Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates, available at www.fda.gov:
“Raw milk is inherently dangerous and may contain a whole host of pathogens…
Claims that raw milk has miraculous disease-curing properties are not supported by the scientific literature…
Permitting raw milk sales, or the operation of so-called ‘cow-share’ schemes to occur within any given jurisdiction, will not result in the maintenance or further strengthening of our food safety systems. On the contrary, permitting such sales and schemes will inevitably result in an increased incidence of foodborne illness…
Raw milk is inherently dangerous and should not be consumed. Raw milk continues to be a source of foodborne illness and even a cause of death within the United States. Despite the claims of raw milk advocates, raw milk is not a magical elixir possessing miraculous curative properties. Pasteurization destroys pathogens and most other vegetative microbes which might be expected and have been shown to be present in milk. Pasteurization does not appreciably alter the nutritive value of milk.”Mar. 15, 2007 - John F. Sheehan, JD
Ruth Kava, PhD, RD, stated in her Aug. 7, 2006 article “‘Healthful’ Raw Milk: A Dangerous Myth Is Back,” published on the American Council on Science and Health website:
“It’s ironic that a food process instituted back in the 1920s and 30s to prevent real, milk-borne disease, is now being demonized as a cause of nutrient depletion (which it is not). Indeed, some raw milk advocates blame pasteurized milk for everything from infant colic to osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer (have they been talking to the anti-aspartame lobby?). None of this is true…
While raw milk may taste somewhat sweeter than the pasteurized variety, this hardly makes up for the fact that it is considerably more likely to carry disease-causing microorganisms. Indeed, as we have noted in the past, there have been well-documented outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 infection in children, an infection that can result in permanent kidney damage, if not death.
We can only hope that the public health community exerts itself to counter the spread of the raw milk myth.”Aug. 7, 2006 - Ruth Kava, PhD, RD