Thursday, August 19, 2010

What To Drink Part 2: What's Wrong With Milk? (Part B)

Awesome pic off a milk carton by:

Sorry for the vacation-related hiatus, but back to more on what (and what not) to drink following a paleo-style approach.  If you missed the first parts of the series, check them out here:

Today, let's talk more about what is wrong with milk.  (Don't worry, we'll get to the benefits next time, I promise!)

Why Pasteurization and Homogenization is NOT Healthy

With all processing, nutrition is lost, BUT the product now has a longer shelf life and is more uniform even though its constituent parts may vary.  The same goes for milk.  Pasteurization involves rapidly heating milk to kill off ALL of its bacteria, beneficial probiotics and any detrimental bacteria alike.  Pasteurization heats milk to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 seconds while "ultra" pasteurization heats to 275 degrees Fahrenheit for a fraction of a second, resulting in an even longer shelf life.  

This is a great quality control mechanism for producers of conventional milk.  They can make their fortunes from confined cows eating pesticide-sprayed and genetically-modified grains they were not designed to eat (they evolved to eat grass) and that make them sick.  To keep their cows alive, producers (a more fitting term than farmers) pump the sick cows full of antibiotics and add growth hormones to increase their milk production.  

And where do you think all those chemicals go?  That's right: into the milk.  Mothers provide their offspring with nutrients and toxins (pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, etc.) alike.  But don't worry, pasteurization is an equalizing step designed to make a safe product even though the input might be quite less than.  Or is it?  

With the advent of pasteurization, it doesn't matter if the cows are sick because the pooled product is (supposedly) sanitized, uniform, and ready to ship.  Unfortunately, all the nutrient potential of real milk fresh from a healthy cow is lost in this process.  Not only is the milk toxic from inhumane farming practices, but it is heated literally to death.  The final product is less nutritious, not more.  With pasteurization, outbreaks of disease are now distributed rapidly from large processing facilities and people forget that milk comes from cows, not from a store. 

Is Conventional Milk Even Safe for Calves?

Here is a rather disturbing publication out of New Mexico State University on feeding "waste" milk to dairy calves.  According to them, "waste milk" is milk not fit for human consumption because it comes from cows fed antibiotics (NOTE: from other sources, it looks like antibiotics ARE still present in conventional milk because they have a heck of a time trying to prevent their residues).  Never wanting to waste money, waste milk is fed to calves, who thereby inherit the antibiotic load.  The article cautions to not feed waste milk to meat animals because the toxins will store in their tissues.  But this is safe for young dairy cows who will give us their milk in the future?  How does that make sense?  Here is their telling precaution about pasteurizing waste milk:
Although pasteurization reduces the microbial load of waste milk, pasteurization is not sterilization. A heavy bacterial load in waste milk will not be eliminated completely by pasteurization. Also, pasteurization does not remove potential contamination from antibiotics in waste milk.
That really sounds like "an economical and nutritious source of liquid feed for young dairy calves" doesn't it?  And don't forget that this warning applies to our OWN pasteurized milk, especially from non-organic sources.  Quality matters!

Laundry List of Problems with Pasteurized Milk

Unfortunately, despite the extended shelf life, pasteurized milk is already on the out.  It's virgin soil to pathogens and without the protection of the beneficial bacteria that were killed right alongside any detrimental strands, pathogens are free to invade and have a field day.  The heat also denatures the whey proteins, turning pasteurized milk its characteristic white hue.  And the dead bacteria?  Still in there.  Yum!  

And NO, ultra pasteurization is NOT better than regular pasteurization despite the cool "ultra" tag.  In fact, the higher heat effects the amino acids, thereby diminishing some nutrient value.  Here is a great rundown of the nutrient costs of pasteurization (bullets added for emphasis):
  • Pasteurization also cuts the nutrient content of the milk. Pasteurized milk has up to a 66 percent loss of vitamins A, D and E. 50% of the Vitamin C is lost. High heat affects water soluble vitamins and less effective. How much less? Anywhere for 35-80%. Vitamins B6 and B12 are completely destroyed during pasteurization.
  • Pasteurization also kills numerous beneficial enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Pasteurization destroys lipase (an enzyme that breaks down fat), which impairs fat metabolism and the ability to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins A and D. This is why the milk is fortified with vitamin D. It is also why Americans in the 20th century experienced high cholesterol like never before. 
  • Milk is a wonderful source of calcium, but pasteurization makes calcium and other minerals harder to absorb. One method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized is to test to make sure that phosphates have been completely removed. Phosphates are essential for the absorption of calcium. Uh oh.
Back in 2003, Dr. Mercola pulled together a sizable list of published studies finding fault with pasteurized milk.  Compared to raw milk, pasteurized milk led to a loss of vitamins, increased incidence of tooth decay, less benefit to growth and development, less resistance to disease, and less calcium availability.  How exactly is this beneficial?

Pathogen Playground

And don't think that pasteurization actually kills ALL the pathogens.  Unfortunately, that isn't the case.  Take Crohn's Disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease.  Although there is no definitive cause or cure yet, a pathogen from cattle (and other ruminants) called Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) creates a very similar condition in cattle as it might also create in humans.  In cattle, it's called Johne's Disease.  Johne's Disease is a fatal gastrointestinal disease that is contagious and may lie dormant in cattle without symptoms for months to years after infection.  The signs of infection are rapid weight loss and diarrhea, which sounds a lot like Crohn's Disease in humans.  Similarly, both have intestinal inflammation.  Since symptoms may be delayed after Johne's infection, the best prevention for dairy farmers is testing and only adding clean animals to the herd.  Plus, proper care of young animals when infection rate is highest is equally important and that means clean milk (NOT "waste" milk!) and a clean environment.  While Johne's looks a lot like Crohn's, MAP have not been found in all Crohn's patients and there is contention over whether or not the presence of MAP is just a side effect of an intestinal tract that is already out of microbial balance.  The current research shows many similarities between the two diseases, but no definitive link yet.  Still, the similarities are pretty obvious enough to take precautions if you have Crohn's.  One would be to limit your exposure to more MAP, which would benefit those suffering from Crohn's and healthy folks alike.  How do people get MAP?  Here are the primary sources:
  • Raw milk from MAP-infected dairy herds.
  • Ground beef originating from MAP-infected dairy cattle sold for slaughter.
  • Domestic water originating from surface sources vulnerable to runoff from MAP-infected farms.
  • Cuts of beef originating from MAP-infected beef cattle.
  • HTST pasteurized milk.
Yes, unfortunately MAP can survive pasteurization.  So how does this add to our discussion of pasteurization?  Well, for one: pasteurization doesn't protect you against everything, and two: conventional dairy relies on pasteurization instead of proper care and feeding of its animals to produce quality milk, so it's cows are more likely to have MAP infection than those producers who believe that healthy cows produce healthy milk.

How do you avoid your exposure to MAP?  Know the source of your meat and dairy and make sure it is clean.  This isn't so difficult if you buy grass-fed beef directly from a farmer (like Morris Grassfed in CA) who can answer questions about it's quality.  Same goes for dairy.  Good luck tracking down the purity of conventional milk, but if you find small suppliers, it's possible.  For example, despite the raw milk warning, raw milk producers like Organic Pastures can attest to the quality of their milk and work hard to keep it clean and pathogen free because there is so much backlash against raw milk.  Find more quality, local sources for meat and dairy at Eat Wild's extensive database.

What's Wrong with Homogenization?

Homogenization squeezes the milk through a fine filter to break down fat and keep it from separating out like the cream that rises to the top of raw milk.  Homogenization makes fat molecules smaller and smaller, which allows them to pass through the lining of your gut, transporting substances that shouldn't leave your digestive tract into your bloodstream superhighway.  Not cool.   One of those substances that shouldn't leave the digestive tract is an enzyme called xanthine oxidase, which plays a role in heart disease.  It's carried by homogenized milk fat into the bloodstream.  What other nasties sneak in this backdoor?

How Does Pasteurized and Homogenized Milk Compare with Raw Milk?

If you check out this colorful chart from Organic Pastures's website, you can plainly see the differences between raw milk and pasteurized, homogenized (to be concise, let's call it PH for pasteurized and homogenized) conventional and organic milk.  With conventional PH milk, there are additives and preservatives, in addition to the hormones, antibiotics, and genetically-modified, pesticide-sprayed grain feeds (whew! that's a mouthful!).  Even in organic PH milk the butterfat, vitamins, and protein need to be added back in and anything goes with the feed as long as it's organic (like the chart says, remember there are organic donuts, so "organic" does NOT mean healthy!).  Organic grains are just as unhealthy for cows as non-organic.  Cows evolved to eat grass.  Period.

The processing involved in producing PH milk leads to lactose intolerance among it's drinkers even in the organic milk because the enzyme to digest lactose has been destroyed through processing.  Hence, more people are allergic to conventional and organic PH milk than raw milk.

Finally, PH milk is NOT safer.  According to the chart, 31% of the time human pathogens are still found in PH milk!  Compare that to Organic Pastures's assertion that human pathogens "have never been found in RAW USA samples."

So do you really want to drink a processed, nutrient-poor, watery, white liquid potentially filled with pathogens, and definitely filled with dead bacteria, denatured proteins, and altered fat molecules?  Really sounds like it "does a body good" doesn't it?

What other choice do you have if you want to drink milk?  Go RAW!

Check back for our next installment about raw milk.  Hope this was an educational and eye-opening journey for you today!  I know it definitely was for me!


  1. I just want to state that as a conventional dairy farmer in northern CA....ALL milk, conventional and organic is tested for antibiotics with every truck load. It is illegal for milk to contain antibiotics and be placed in the food chain. If a truck load of milk is found to be tainted with antibiotics, it will then be tracked to the responsible dairy farmer and that farmer is then responsible for the cost of the entire truck load of dairy farmer ever wants this to happen, it's a very costly mistake if it does happen. Let me know if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them for you:)

  2. Hi Wife of a Dairyman,
    I appreciate your comment, and hope you are absolutely right. But please read the article I listed above under the "sources" link when I discussed antibiotics. Here it is again:
    Preventing Antibiotic Residues In Milk by J.E. Rushing and D.P. Wesen
    Departments of Food Science and Animal Science, NCSU

    According to that article, the regulatory process still allows for low levels of antibiotics in milk. Eliminating antibiotic residues is an ongoing problem. The final paragraph from that article is important to repeat:

    "Antibiotic therapy takes place at the producer level. Nothing the processor or the regulatory agency can do will prevent antibiotic residues from occurring in bulk tank milk, though they may be able to screen out some violative loads. The prevention of antibiotic residues sits squarely on the shoulders of the producer and his veterinarian. It is the producers' management practices and their exercise of control in antibiotic therapy programs which can prevent residues in the milk supply. The penalties for violations are severe. A producer may lose his permit to ship milk and with it his livelihood. Consumers, the industry, and the government are speaking with one voice: 'Antibiotic residues are not acceptable in the milk supply and the responsibility lies with the producer — the producer alone.'"

  3. Hi... love your blog. Was trying to subscribe to your twitter feed, but your link leads me to an ID Twitter says isn't correct ( I'll subscribe to your blog, which is what I most want to follow anyway. Just an fyi on the twitter link.

    --Michael (aka: adaddyblog)

  4. Hi A Daddy,
    I appreciate your comment and the message about my Twitter link being down. Sorry! I changed my Twitter name to FeastingFitness to be more in line with this blog, but I don't use it very often due to the VERY annoying word cap, downed site every time I try to access it, and my own frustration. I tend to use and update my Facebook page much more often, sharing my own blog posts and interesting links there, so find me there if you are interested! Thank you!
    Best wishes,
    PS I fixed the Twitter link too :)