Milk. Raw Whole Milk vs. Homogenized or Pasteurized whole-fat, Low-fat or Skimmed Milk. And, does milk cause infertility?
In this section of Seattle Organic Restaurants I'm going to talk about homogenized milk, pasteurized milk, raw milk and is milk causes infertility in women. If a person is not used to drinking raw milk from a cow, then the idea of it is really not appealing – I admit that was certainly the case for me. But by researching milk for 2 years and speaking with a range of medical doctors and reading various research papers (see below) I finally decided that I must switch to raw milk from a cow and luckily, where we live in Northwest, we do have access to a few raw milk farmers and we can get our milk directly from them. They are responsible dairy farmers who ensure that the milk is produced under very strict and hygienic facility.
But, the question is, what’s the difference between raw whole milk from a cow vs. homogenized or pasteurized milk, and if there is any concern or potential harm regarding low-fat and skimmed milk to a woman’s fertility? Let’s address each of these, one at a time.
Homogenization of Milk
Milk homogenization is a process of mixing massive amounts of harvested milk from several different milking herds and/or dairies, to create a more consistent raw milk, since otherwise raw milk naturally separates into different layers of fat density. Homogenization process is often done mechanically by forcing the milk at high pressure through small holes. There are some other methods of homogenization, for instance using extruders, or using hammermills, or colloid mills to mill (grind) solids. So, basically milk homogenization is a way for the milk food industry to prevent creating various levels of flavor and fat concentration for the end product before it is delivered to the customer.
So, is Homogenized Milk Safe?
I have reviewed various suggestions and articles and claims but to this day, I myself am not convinced that homogenized milk is dangerous to humans. The process is essentially mechanical. There is no addition of chemicals. So, for the moment, I believe that it is safe unless there is solid evidence that it is not or if Monsanto gets involved, in which case, homogenization of milk will be guilty by association. A research study in France, UMR INRA 1253, Science et Technologie du Lait, suggested that homogenization increases the digestibility of milk, particularly in people with diseases that impair their ability to digest fats. Well, this to me is simply irrelevant since the idea of homogenization is emulsifying fat or in other words the process of protein and fats being broken down into smaller particles. The study suggest that as a result of homogenization, there is more surface area for enzymes to work on and this leads to more efficient digestion. Well, firstly, if you are allergic to milk and are lactose intolerant, then homogenization isn’t going to make milk any more or less tolerable for you. Second, I have found many double-blind studies (e.g. University of Helsinki in Finland, Department of Applied Science, Nutritional Study) which published report that there is no difference between homogenized and non-homogenized milk when it comes to helping digestibility of milk. Basically, there is no difference, other than taste and texture – but no real chemical or nutritional or structural change at the cellular level.
However, in the 1970s, Kurt Oster suggested that milk might cause increase risk of heart disease, and he became famous for his assertion. His opinion was based on the hypothesis that homogenization changes the size of fat globules in milk and this changes the molecule structure of fats and protein and may alter how our bodies react to such structural changes. However countless number of respectable studies since have all concluded that the structure of globules are not changing but only the size. Same studies also provided additional information that there is no evidence that vitamin D absorption is affected, in any way, by homogenization. Again, I myself have not found any evidence or research study that suggests homogenization is harmful, otherwise I would immediately stop drinking milk that is homogenized - whenever I cannot get raw whole milk when I am on a trip or on vacation. So there you go. You choose what is best for you and your family based on your own conclusions with regards to homogenization of milk. If homogenization is a concern to you then you may wish to consider goat’s milk, since it naturally has smaller fat molecules and therefore does not need to be homogenized – AND - it’s much closer to human milk in nutritional content as well as lower fat content, compared to cow’s milk.
Make sure you don’t confuse homogenization with pasteurization, because these two have nothing to do with one another. In conclusion, non-homogenized milk is not mechanically (or otherwise) processed for more consistent flavor or texture. Homogenized milk has a more consistent flavor and fat consistency. If this is not an issue to you then you can drink raw non-homogenized milk where the cream floats to the top. If you want raw non-homogenized milk that is low-fat, you can simply pour off some of the cream at the top and shake the rest and drink naturally. Either way, there doesn’t appear to be any difference in risk-level between drinking homogenized milk or non-homogenized milk.
Pasteurization of Milk
Pasteurization of milk is a process of heating (and straining of cream for low-fat, skimmed, or non-fat milk) to increase the shelf life of milk. There are two main processes used worldwide, 1) high-temperature, short-time pasteurization of milk which has a refrigerated shelf life of two to three weeks, 2) ultra-pasteurization using ultra-heat treatment for an extended refrigerated shelf life of up to two to three months. Obviously, the more natural, the more nutrients and the better it is for you. Unpasteurized milk obtained from humanely raised cows that graze on non-contaminated soil, grass fed and handled hygienically - then this is probably the best for you if you are not lactose intolerant.
But raw milk can become contaminated in a number of ways, especially in large commercial farms that put profit before safety. In such cases, milk can get contaminated by coming into contact with cow feces, bacteria living on the skin of cows, unhygienic equipment, udder infection in cows, and other such potentially risk situations. Raw milk is responsible for nearly three times more hospitalizations than any other food borne disease outbreak, making it one of the world's most dangerous food products, according to Hannah Gould, Ph.D., senior epidemiologist with the CDC's Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch. But the oxymoron is - it is the large commercial mass-production dairy farmers that would produce and sell contaminated raw milk with little or no safety measure - rather than the small local farmer that is highly safety conscious since his entire family also drink the same cow's milk that they sell to their customers and that their livelihoods depend on their reputation.
Furthermore, the diet used these days to feed cows are aimed by most large commercial milk companies to produce as much milk as possible, obviously for maximum profit. As a result of this human-modified diet intake, cows are producing 10 or more times the amount of milk than they normally would without interference in their regular diet of grass. However, increase in milk production does not necessarily mean increase in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Cows on a normal diet grazing on grass without any interference produce about roughly 10% Vitamin A, 30% Vitamin D, 30% Riboflavin, 20% B12, 50% calcium, 25% phosphorus, and 15% potassium. Diluted cow’s milk, from mass-production commercial centers, produce milk with a fraction of these nutrients and often lose other vitamins and minerals or have very low levels, such as copper, niacin, vitamin K, and others. Additionally, the diet that cows are given does not provide a nutrient balance for optimized health and protection through high immunity from infections. This means that cows get sick more often and have low immune system and as reported many times, about half of them get udder infection. Udder infection, also called, Mastitis, in dairy cattle is the persistent, inflammatory reaction of the udder tissue and is the most common disease in dairy cattle in the United States, and very costly to large commercial dairy farmers.
Udder infection in cows forces large commercial dairy farmers to give cows injection of antibiotics routinely which work their way into the cow’s milk eventually, before consumed by the general public. Cows are also treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST) to increase milk production in dairy cows by larger commercial dairy farmers. Despite opposition from physicians, scientists and consumer advocacy groups, the Food and Drug Administration in 1993 approved Monsanto’s genetically engineered hormone product, rBGH, which seems to be linked to early puberty in girls as well as causing hormone imbalances in older women. Although the data compilation and analysis is quite complex, with studies reaching different conclusions (the proponents most probably funded by Monsanto), several epidemiological studies have indicated a relationship between dairy consumption (with rBGH) and breast cancer risk in premenopausal women.
However, Monsanto’s pockets are very deep and their lobbyists very well funded and influential. But American people are fighting back and occasionally winning. Many small dairy farmers are now selling their raw milk, even at the wrath of FDA, and activists and nutritionists are helping to promote and protect small dairy farmers that pay a great deal of attention to delivering raw unpasteurized milk from clean and hygienic production facilities with cows that are roaming free and grazing and grass fed.
Is milk causing infertility?
According to a NY Times bestseller, The Fertility Diet, the authors suggest that the process of removing fat content from whole milk also removes the female hormones which are bound to the fat. As a result this leaves behind higher portions of male and neutral hormones therefore causing an imbalance interfering with a woman’s ovulation process and fertility.
Studies also show that removing fat from milk increases lactose or milk sugar and therefore increases the ratio of glycemic levels. It is also important to remember that more than 60% of the world’s population is allergic to lactose. Pasteurized milk further exasperates this since the heating process causes losses of beneficial nutrients, which are already diluted as a result of increased production. One nutrient that is lost during this process is vitamin B which is unfortunate for those suffering infertility. Our bodies need both sugar and fat (among others things) in order to maintain our cellular structure. It is now universally accepted that excess sugar is bad for us. But our bodies and brain need sugar to function. The same is true for fats. Our bodies need fat. But we need fat from natural sources and in a natural way that does not interfere with other vitamins and minerals in our body nor does it change our cellular structure.
Removing the fat from milk results in an imbalance of hormones throughout the body, causing a failure to ovulate or produce a healthy egg. In a recent study, scientists found that women who ate full fat (whole milk) dairy were found to have a 27% lower risk of infertility. Women who ate low fat milk products twice a day were found to be twice as likely to not ovulate. This study shows that eating healthy fats, as are in milk, is helpful in reproduction. Our body needs healthy fats, and in the right amounts, consumed naturally without change to its cellular structure. As long as it is not potentially harmful, like skimmed-milk, reduced-fat, and non-fat byproducts. I personally avoid any skimmed milk, low-fat milk, or non-fat milk – even in small measures (for instance adding to coffee) or regular intake as part of my daily diet. I prefer raw goat’s milk from a farmer that pays a great deal attention to facility hygiene and the health and well being of his/her dairy cows. Finally, although cow’s milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin D, it is certainly not the only source and milk is NOT essential to a healthy diet. Vegetarian diet of calcium and vitamin D are an excellent source of nutrients and without any animal fat or bad cholesterol.
No difference in symptoms during challenges with homogenized and unhomogenized cow's milk in subjects with subjective hypersensitivity to homogenized milk
Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH/rBST)
Whole-milk products may increase fertility in women