Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The truth about milk: raw? or pasteurized?

The debate over raw milk, like many health debates is typically presented in black and white. A healthy debate would have many more colours.

Raw milk is healthier - says one side.  Pasteurizing milk destroys much of the nutritional value of milk.

Pasteurized milk is safer says the other, and just as healthy.  The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has demonstrated that raw milk is unsafe, compared to pasteurized milk. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/18/3/11-1370_article.htm#results

This is a classical case of the medical approach vs the alternative health approach. Perhaps more 'classical' than we might like to admit. The medical establishment wants to put an arrow in raw milk.  And the alternative health establishment insists that raw milk is healthy, while pasteurized milk is damaged and unhealthy.

Remember, 'alternative health' is not really about health, it is about alternative medicine.

Each side has a very narrow point of view.  X is bad. Y is bad.  Both sides are using the medical viewpoint. Traditional medicine vs alternative medicine. Look for bad things.  Look for illness, causes of illness.  Look for things that prevent or cure bad things. A medical viewpoint focuses attention on illness - to force a decision. It is a powerful tool against illness.

But it is not a view to build healthiness.

What is a healthy view?  How does a healthy view compare to a medical view?

We need healthy view to understand and pursue healthiness.

The medical view focusses attention on illness in order to diagnose, treat
cure and prevent illness.  This is a powerful view with regard to illness but not appropriate for understanding and learning about healthiness.

In theory, the healthy view and the medical view see the same information - the same milk in this case. But they see from different points of view. The medical view sees illness. Medical practitioners, conventional and alternative, spend their lives looking at people who are ill, trying to make them better.

The medical view often comes to conflicting conclusions as the focus jumps from one illness to another. A factor that seems to 'prevent' one illness can easily shift health balances towards another illness.

A healthy view, on the other hand, examines how we enable healthy genetics, create healthy cells, how they create healthy tissues and organs, resulting in healthy systems and bodies.  Healthy bodies, minds, spirits and communities provide a feedback loop that continues to improve healthiness while minimizing conflict.

People who are not ill - and want to be healthier require a healthy viewpoint for healthy decision making.

What are the health questions? There are many more - oriented towards health, not towards illness. Does milk improve the healthiness of your cells, your tissues, your organs, your body?

Is milk essential, or is milk the optimal food - for babies?  for children?  for teens? for adults?  for seniors? We know that milk is not a vitamin.  It is not essential to health, like Vitamin C or specific fats or proteins.

We know that human milk can be a near optimal food for babies.  In most mammals, milk is not consumed once a baby is weaned.

We don't know if milk is a healthy food for teens, adults, seniors. Why don't we know?  Because we study medicine very thoroughly, but we don't study healthiness.

Is milk healthy?  Is pasteurized milk healthy or unhealthy? Is raw milk healthy or unhealthy (assuming it is not tainted). Is milk actually good for you? Do you need milk for health? What are the truths about milk?

Do we need milk? The answer is clearly no.  Milk is not required for health.  We can get the nutrients that are in milk in many different foods. Consumption of milk, processed or raw is not necessary - it is a health choice - your choice, to consume milk or not.

Does drinking milk make you healthier?  The evidence shows that the answer clearly is 'sometimes yes, sometimes no'.  We know that illness is caused by a deficiency, or an excess.  How much milk is 'excessive'? How much milk does it take to cause unhealthiness?

We need the right to choose.  We need information to support our choices.

Will we ever know the truth about milk?  Which is healthier, raw milk, or pasteurized milk?  I suspect we will never know.  Pasteurized milk fits our marketing practices.  It has a long shelf life.  It's dead, so it doesn't spoil for a very long time.  It has a 'minimum risk' profile - more important to sales than a 'maximize health' profile. There is huge incentive for corporations who sell milk to sell pasteurized milk. No research is necessary.

Raw milk?  No big corporations care. Individual people care, but they don't sell milk to the super stores. And they can't buy milk in super stores There is no financial incentive to do true research into raw milk - or into the healthiness of milk.

If you want raw milk - you need to buy a cow.

You have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of healthiness. You have a right to information, and choices.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: