Pasteurization is a process of heat treating milk to kill bacteria. Although Louis Pasteur developed this technique for preserving beer and wine, he was not responsible for applying it to milk. That was done at the end of the 1800s as a temporary solution until filthy urban dairies could find a way to produce cleaner milk. But instead of cleaning up milk production, dairies used pasteurization as a way to cover up dirty milk. As milk became more mass produced, pasteurization became necessary for large dairies to increase their profits. So the public then had to be convinced that pasteurized milk was safer than raw milk. Soon raw milk consumption was blamed for all sorts of diseases and outbreaks until the public was finally convinced that pasteurized milk was superior to milk in its natural state.
Today if you mention raw milk, many people gasp and utter ridiculous statements like, You can die from drinking raw milk!" But the truth is that there are far more risks from drinking pasteurized milk than unpasteurized milk. Raw milk naturally contains healthy bacteria that inhibit the growth of undesirable and dangerous organisms. Without these friendly bacteria, pasteurized milk is more susceptible to contamination. Furthermore, modern equipment, such as milking machines, stainless steel tanks and refrigerated trucks, make it entirely possible to bring clean, raw milk to the market anywhere in the US.
Not only does pasteurization kill the friendly bacteria, it also greatly diminishes the nutrient content of the milk. Pasteurized milk has up to a 66 percent loss of vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin C loss usually exceeds 50 percent. Heat affects water soluble vitamins and can make them 38 percent to 80 percent less effective. Vitamins B6 and B12 are completely destroyed during pasteurization. Pasteurization also destroys beneficial enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Pasteurization destroys lipase (an enzyme that breaksdown fat), which impairs fat metabolism and the ability to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins A and D. (The dairy industry is aware of the diminished vitamin D content in commercial milk, so they fortify it with a form of this vitamin.)
We have all been led to believe that milk is a wonderful source of calcium, when in fact, pasteurization makes calcium and other minerals less available. Complete destruction of phosphatase is one method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized. Phosphatase is essential for the absorption of calcium.
As the dairy industry has become more concentrated, many processing plants have switched to ultrapasteurization, which involves higher temperatures and longer treatment times. The industry says this is necessary because many microorganisms have become heat resistant and now survive ordinary pasteurization.
Another reason for ultrapasteurization is that it gives the milk a longer shelf life--up to four weeks. The grocers like this but many consumers complain of a burnt or dead taste. The milk is virtually sterile--is that what you want to drink?
Milk producers are not advertising the fact that they are ultrapasteurizing the milk--the word is written in very small letters and the milk is sold in the refrigerator section even though it can be kept unrefrigerated until opened. Horizon, the major organic brand, is ultrapasteurized, as are virtually all national brands.
Milk straight from the cow contains cream, which rises to the top. Homogenization is a process that breaks up the fat globules and evenly distributes them throughout the milk so that they do not rise. This process unnaturally increases the surface area of fat exposing it to air, in which oxidation occurs and increases the susceptibility to spoilage. Homogenization has been linked to heart disease and atherosclerosis.
MILK: TO DRINK OR NOT TO DRINK?
Considering how modern commercial milk is produced and processed, it's no wonder that millions of Americans are allergic to it. An allergic reaction to dairy can cause symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting (even projectile vomiting), stomach pain, cramping, gas, bloating, nausea, headaches, sinus and chest congestion, and a sore, or scratchy throat. Milk consumption has been linked to many other health conditions as well, such as asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, chronic infections (especially upper respiratory and ear infections), obesity, osteoporosis and cancer of the prostate, ovaries, breast and colon.
Once you understand how modern milk is produced and processed, it seems logical to just avoid it altogether. But Real Milk--full-fat, unprocessed milk from pasture-fed cows--contains vital nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A and D, calcium, vitamin B6, B12, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid naturally occurring in grass-fed beef and milk that reduces body fat and protects against cancer). Real milk is a source of complete protein and is loaded with enzymes. Raw milk contains beneficial bacteria that protect against pathogens and contribute to a healthy flora in the intestines. Culturing milk greatly enhances its probiotic and enzyme content, making it a therapeutic food for our digestive system and overall health.
So the answer to the question is--go ahead and drink milk only if you can get unprocessed milk from pastured cows.