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Under the Microscope: Raw versus Pasteurized Milk

by Sean Croxton
Originally posted at

Meet Charles North.

A smooth talker and astute businessman, Mr. North forever altered more than 40,000 years of nutritional wisdom with a new invention and a little fear. The year was 1907, a time when milk was mostly produced by happy grass-fed cows and rightfully consumed in its raw form. With his newly invented batch-processing pasteurization machine in tow, North made it is own personal mission to rid the country of raw milk-induced disease.

The problem was that there was no raw milk disease epidemic. Yet, that did not stop the inventor from traveling through small towns alerting the people of an outbreak of illness in the previous town he had visited. Drinking unpasteurized milk caused the illness. The solution was his machine. The story was fictional.

To the naked eye, milk treated by North’s machine did not appear much different from its raw predecessor. And to the fearful mind, it was safer to consume.

More fiction. Let us take a closer look.

The Grand Designer engineered raw milk with a vital microstructure intended to provide nourishment and to complement proper digestive function. Milk’s structure consists of somewhat of a separation of powers. Its protein and fat components are meant to function independently with little to no interaction. In her book Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, Cate Shanahan M.D. takes us under the electron microscope to show us a side of milk seldom seen.

“…we can see the casein micelles, which are amazingly complex. Imagine a mound of spaghetti and meatballs formed into a big round ball. The strands of spaghetti are made of protein (casein), and the meatballs are made of the most digestible form of calcium phosphate, which holds the spaghetti strands together in a clump with its tiny magnetic charge. This clumping prevents sugar from reacting with and destroying milk’s essential amino acids.”

Dr. Shanahan goes on to describe the fat globules, each one unique in size and enclosed in their own phospholipid membranes. These membranes are home to various specialized proteins that protect the globule from bacterial infection. Other proteins act like special transit passes, signaling the intestines to absorb the globules without inspection. This feature allows for effortless fat digestion without the assistance of the gallbladder. As long as the fat remains disconnected from the aforementioned casein and calcium, everything runs smoothly. When the components get too close for comfort, it can be a bumpy ride.

After the heat and strain of pasteurization and homogenization, the organized world that was raw milk comes to resemble a war zone. The population of beneficial bacteria that once protected the milk (as well as its consumer) from infection is wiped off the map. The utilitarian structures of the fat globules are destroyed as the homogenization process forces them through microscopic holes. The transit passes that allowed for easy digestion go missing. This slows the digestive process, thus the myriad of digestive disturbances experienced upon consumption of pasteurized milk including gas, bloating, and constipation.

“Processing can render milk highly irritating to the intestinal tract, and such a wide variety of chemical changes may occur that processed milk can lead to diarrhea and constipation. During processing, the nice, soft meatball of colloidal calcium phosphate fuses with the fatty acids to form a kind of milk-fat soap. This reaction, called saponification, irritates many people’s GI tracts and makes the calcium and phosphate much less bioavailable and more difficult to absorb. Processed milks contain anywhere from one-half to one-sixth the bioavailable minerals of the fresh products.”

The heat of pasteurization also denatures amino acids. These damaged proteins remain in the milk where they can become toxic, allergenic, and inflammatory. And if that were not enough, an enzyme called xanthine oxidase can hide within the fat globules, passing intact through the intestinal barrier and into circulation. This is not supposed to happen. In its unpasteurized form, xanthine oxidase is broken down and rendered inactive by the digestive process. When it passes intact into circulation it wreaks havoc on our arteries causing atherosclerosis, as well as free radical damage. Ouch.

Times have changed. And so has our milk. Raw milk was once adorned for its nourishing, immune-building, disease-protective benefits by people the world over. Now it is feared. But what is to be feared is its pasteurized, homogenized, so-called “safer” alternative; a lifeless source of digestive dysfunction, damaged proteins and fats, inferior nutritional value, and clogged arteries. Not to mention the sick cows from which it comes.

One hundred years later, Charles North’s story is still being told. Despite the fact than no outbreak of illness has ever been attributed to raw milk from grass-fed cows, we remain steadfast in our willingness to trade a milk product that causes imaginary illness for one that actually contributes to poor health.

Mr. North would be proud.

Source: Deep Nutrion: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan, M.D.

Sean Croxton
Underground Wellness



16 thoughts on “Under the Microscope: Raw versus Pasteurized Milk

  1. Fitness Training programs

    Good stuff Sean! I believed I commented on this on another one of your posts. Its ashamed we “commercialize” everything and never questioned why it is being done. I am starting to believe there is someone out there who really wants us to be unhealthy. ( hint hint)

  2. Paul

    Couldn’t agree more. My wife and I started feeding our 2 week old little girl on a home-made raw milk formula we found on the Western Price website. She’s a happy, really really really healthy 11 month old now!

    This whole issue about food quality is a real systemic problem in modern society. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, but it’s driven by economics so many parties have a vested interest in not wanting to hear/acknowledge the truth.

    My theory is that two things have historically collided to form a kind of perfect storm that has undermined our ability as a society to be truly informed – the modern manufacturing/scientific revolution of the past 50 years that drove down the costs of manufactured goods using creative chemical substitutes for many natural products and the rise of mass-media, particularly TV, that sold us these goods and convinced a generation that they were safe.

    Raw milk is a great example – it’s now treated to remove all its goodness and sold to us through celebrity advertising – ‘Got Milk?’ anyone?

    I’m hoping the rise of the Net and blogs like this are going to act as a kind of modern counter-weight to this process. We desperately need to swing the collective consciousness around.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Carl

    Couldn’t agree more.

    I always find it funny that people say they are allergic to milk and are therefore lactose intolerant. Really, what they don’t realise, is that they are mostly allergic to the process of pastuerization and homogenization, rather than the milk itself.

    Keep up the good work Sean, truly educational!

  4. Aerio

    You are delusional. Raw milk diseases used to be one of the major killers. I know it doesn’t help you sell overpriced milk to unsuspecting dupes.. but it’s the truth.

    Weston A. Price Foundation is all alone for a reason. Science doesn’t back it up.. Can we say quack?

    The sad thing is, raw milk really is much more risky. Sigh.

  5. Alexx

    Humans are the only mammals that still drink milk after the natural weaning age (2-7 years of age), and ALSO the only mammal that drinks the milk of another species.
    Milk is NOT some wonderful magical drink.

    HUMAN MILK for HUMAN BABIES, and after that – we don’t need milk anymore.

  6. EAD

    @ Aerio – Do you have any stats to back up what you’re saying or are you just another naysayer? As far as overpriced milk goes, don’t you think its a bit naive for you to be saying that something is overpriced because its in low supply? From a strictly economical standpoint, items that are in demand and low in supply are usually priced higher. Same thing with vegetables/fruits that are not sprayed with chemicals. The only reason “real” food is so expensive is because the government subsidizes GMO, etc. Our top soil is depleted. Our cows are fed corn, not grass. 90% of the soy bean market is “ROUND-UP” resistant. Now, when you talk to your average M.D. the first thing that will come out of their mouths is the word “quack”. How do I know? Because I have several friends that I grew up with who are M.D.’s. The average student on a college campus has full confidence in what the government tells them and no clue about how the real world works. So, of course, very few people know about the Weston Price Foundation. Then, when people start getting sick, and the doctors have no answers, they start researching and answers start coming from places their doctors didn’t know about. All the while, their doctor is telling them its “all in their head”.

    @ Alexx – I agree with you (although) I’m not sure to what degree.

  7. Leala

    Hi Sean I was wondering if you have seen the lecture Udderly Amazing? If you have what are your thoughts about it. I thought it was really interesting and I tend to agree that milk isn’t so good for you but I don’t agree with everything everything on both sides of the argument. If you are going to consume it it should be raw grass feed milk.

  8. Scott

    @ Alexx – Have you ever stopped to consider that perhaps the only reason animals don’t drink the milk of another animal is due to the fact that they have no way of acquiring said milk? How is an animal ever going to get the opportunity to drink the milk a different species? Not a lot of milking machines and cartons found in the wild.

    Now, I submit that you could put a bowl of milk in front of virtually any mammal and, given this opportunity, it will drink it up without hesitation!

    Also, the simple fact that there are countless documented cases of lactating mammals nursing orphaned offspring of differing species negates your argument immediately.

  9. ms organic

    Very interesting, lots of new info for me. We drink only raw milk in our home. It is grass fed (in season). Took one of my kids (11 years old) in for a check up, the first Doc visit in 4 years. The Doc looked in her mouth and said, “nice straight teeth, that’s rare to see”. I was incredulous, as all of my children have nice straight teeth.
    Though our health is not perfect we don’t ever get sick enough to need to see a doctor. Lots of my friends with kids are always fighting some bug or another and going to the doctor for antibiotics.
    All I can say is I know lots of people who grew up on dairy farms and drank their milk raw, (have straight teeth) and like us never got sick from it.

  10. Adam

    Aerio: Raw milk can be a danger if consumed from an unhealthy cow. Its the same with all food as well. You eat meat from an unhealthy animal and it can cause a problem. If you get raw milk from a healthy cow, there is no problem. Ive been drinking raw milk for 5 years and have had zero issues.

  11. Daniel

    This article is both bias and misleading. There are tons of hard copied published literature that state that Pasteurization A.) was created to extend shelf life of milk in the 1800’s, and B.) Used in early 1900’s to kill Bovine Tuberculosis which was the main cause of death in the US at the time (over 140,000 in one year).

    Don’t get me wrong, raw milk is fantastic! We all started out life with it, and I continue to enjoy it once in a while. But, there is a but… Be careful, because most of our raw milk cows have not been tested for TB, and though it doesn’t run wild within our kind they still have a lot of it.

    Please contact your sources before drinking to find out if they spend the extra $ on testing before you spend the extra $ on drinking it. It’s the principle of the matter…One in a million chance, but don’t take it. It is not worth risking your health and you should all agree to that!

  12. jasmine

    Alexx wrote:
    Humans are the only mammals that still drink milk after the natural weaning age (2-7 years of age), and ALSO the only mammal that drinks the milk of another species.
    Milk is NOT some wonderful magical drink.

    HUMAN MILK for HUMAN BABIES, and after that – we don’t need milk anymore

    – this argument is silly
    humans are also the only animals to cook their food, therefore we shouldnt cook our food at all.
    humans are also the only animals that use cars rather than their own two leg to travel great distances. so i guess we shoult not be driving either.

    there are alot of things that humans can do that all other organisms cannot do. and there are also organisms who can do things we could only wish we can do.
    using this type of logic as the basis to claim that humans cant, or shouldnt drink milk is flawed.

    milk is definately an unnecessary for a healthy diet. there are alot of health concerns that come up when drinking pasturized and raw milk.

    i personally dont drink milk, prefering to make good use of dairy alternatives like “nut cheese” and “nut milks”. i eat a little unpasturized dairy cheese now and then. I also enjoy some pasturized dairy yogurt even more rarely. but thats about it.

    my thoughts about raw milk are quite simple. i live in canada and raw milk is illegal here. some people try to go around the law buy purchasing cow shares to buy their raw milk. I dont feel comfortable doing this because there are little to know regulations and safety checks to make sure that the dairy farmers are collecting the milk safely, from healthy cows. the only time anything gets tested is when there is an outbreak that gets traces back to one of these dairy farms. if i were collecting the milk myself and i could get samples of the milk i collect tested, i may feel differently. But the reality is, i dont have a farm or a lab. If i want raw milk, i would have to pay more than double the cost of pasturized milk and have to trust complete strangers to be responsible and careful about how they handle their milk. thats not happening.

    but, in defence for raw milk, the laws are stupid. people can smoke, drink alcohol, eat McDonald’s, and KFC… people can also buy and eat their eggs raw, go to a restaurant and order their eggs with a runny yoke, order a steak that could be surved anywhere from burned to “still mooing”, but people cant be trusted to accept the risks associated with drinking raw milk? sounds like BS to me. if the governement really wants to protect people they should regulate it rather than turn dairy farmers and dairy consumers into criminals.

    thats my little rant.

    but thats just my two cents.

  13. Paul B

    Great post, I realize it is a bit old but still enjoyable non the less. Also if anyone actually reads this, I have heard of specific problems or pathogens from raw milk, I was wondering if the statement made about there never being any problems with raw milk stemmed from a lack of research articles on raw milk, or maybe from research that was proving raw milk is safe. I am a strong proponent for drinking raw milk from healthy cows, it’s just too bad I can’t find any.

  14. Liz

    Pasteurized milk has also caused food-borne illness and fyi has actually killed more people, 3, than raw milk, 0, since 1999. How many people have become ill is a different story because on both sides there are tons of cases. Should we stop selling it just because people become sick and could possibly die from it, no. Why should people who want to drink raw milk have to jump through hoops and regulations stating raw milk is a “high-risk” food? And just becuase money can buy the supposed science behind your own misinformed delusion, think twice before you say raw milk is more risky.

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