- Raw milk contains compounds that fight infectious agents.
- There is also a class of compounds that seem to promote positive immunity response.
- The benefit to humans is not established.
- One should avoid using one study to draw broad conclusions.
- There is not enough information to make a proper risk analysis
The objective of this investigation is to research the findings of the power point presentation (PPT) of Dexter and Fallon with the ultimate goal of deciding on the scientific validity of health claims of raw milk. This article will look at the first few slides of the PPT.
While waiting for the delivery of the book The Untold Story of Milk from Amazon, I have decided to look at what information I can from the web sites recommended in the thread of at The Complete Patient web blog post entitled "The Nuances of Educating People About Raw Milk and Other Real Foods". In visiting the web site for the Weston A. Price Foundation I found the following PPT and will start to look into the claims it makes. As I have said before, I do not take the Weston A. Price Foundation as a non-biased source. Though some have questioned how anyone might benefit from advocating or misleading a concept that is not financially profitable, human nature being what it is there are many reasons why someone might take up advocacy for an idea or belief that does not pan out "in reality".
My intention with respect to the PPT is to go over, slide by slide, the claims and details. I am not a health professional (a bonus point no doubt among many...) so please feel free to correct me or direct me to areas you think I either missed or did not cover adequately. My goal is two fold. To find out details about the science or pseudo-science of raw milk claims and to show respect for people. Showing respect for people of course is a two way street so please let's try to avoid what happens so often on net.
We are told:
This is followed by the next slide:
- Consider the calf, born in the muck, which then suckles on its mother’s manure-covered teat. How can that calf survive?
- Because raw milk contains multiple, redundant systems of bioactive components that can reduce or eliminate populations of pathogenic bacteria.
- Built-In Protective Systems in Raw Milk Lactoperoxidase
- Uses small amounts of H2O2 and free radicals to seek out and destroy bad bacteria
- In all mammalian secretions—breast milk, tears, etc.
- Lactoperoxidase levels 10 times higher in goat milk than in breast milk
- Other countries are looking into using lactoperoxidase instead to pasteurization to ensure safety of commercial milk
British Journal of Nutrition (2000), 84, Suppl. 1. S19-S25.Indian Journal Exp Biology Vol. 36, August 1998, pp 808-810. 1991J Dairy Sci 74:783-787Life Sciences, Vol 66, No 23, pp 2433-2439, 2000
This research lead to further reading why I found this interesting article:
This looks like a great deal of scientific gobbledygook no doubt, but in essence it not only affirms the findings stated in the PPT but also confirms statements made elsewhere that there is a potential immuno-benefit derived from some proteins that are "dependent upon its folding state" or tertiary structure. Such protein structures are easily lost when they are heated, such as when milk is pasteurized. The authors note, and we should too, that the exact immunoregulatory effects are not known. This is undergoing further research.
Biodefense Properties of Milk: The Role of Antimicrobial Proteins and Peptides
Authors: Clare, D.A.; Catignani, G.L.; Swaisgood, H.E.
Source: Current Pharmaceutical Design, Volume 9, Number 16, June 2003, pp. 1239-1255(17)
Publisher: Bentham Science Publishers
Abstract:Mammary fluids, colostrum and milk, deliver nature's first host defense systems upon birth, and these essential liquids are critical for survival of the neonate. The identification and characterization of anti-infectious proteins were among the early scientific discoveries and this group of proteins has long been recognized for promoting health benefits in both newborns and adults. Among the more widely studied are the immunoglobulins, lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, and lactoferrin. Recently, it was shown that -lactalbumin may also function in a protective capacity dependent upon its folding state. Some of these, especially lactoferrin, also display an immunomodulatory role in which case a totally separate cascade of host defense responses is initiated. It was noted that the mechanism of action for this cluster of sentry proteins does vary; thus, this protective strategy provides for a broad range of responsive reactions to infection. Presently, there is a major focus on the discovery of novel peptides that can be generated from existing milk proteins via proteolytic reactions. To date, this substrate list includes -lactalbumin, -lactoglobulin, all casein fractions, and lactoferrin. Again, the immunoregulatory effects prompted as a result of the appearance of these peptides are currently being defined. Herein, we review the principal biological properties associated with each of these contributing milk components with a special emphasis on the role of biodefensive milk peptides. We envision future contributions emerging from this research field as an opportunity to develop effective new therapies to be used in treating infectious diseases and promoting health benefits in vivo.
The findings form the papers mentioned above confirm the statements made in the first few slides of the PPT. The inference made by the PPT authors, Dexter and Fallon, that raw milk is thus fundamentally safe is given some credence. The problem for this understanding is that raw milk is traced to out brakes of illness so any understanding that raw milk is fundamentally safe needs to include an explanation for these out breaks. I will muse on some possibilities that might suggest areas that need further research. In addition the idea that some bacteria, which are useful or benign to the calf but potentially infectious to a human, exist is not addressed.
Many of the compounds mentioned in the articles referenced are peroxides, these compounds are known for their short lifetimes (they decompose readily) which is part of the basis of their effectiveness. This is not a surprise since milk, by its nature, is not meant to be stored at all. Thus pathogen out breaks linked to raw milk would suggest that many of the bacteriological fighting compounds in raw milk are short lived. The research question here is what is this period of time for a given bacteriological load? Other questions include does diet affect the production of these compounds and to what degree.
The other interesting finding is the possible immuno-benefit of some of these proteins. I must confess that due to time restrictions I am basing my discussion on the reading of the abstract rather than the article itself. I hope that by my next post (middle of next week) I will have read this article and have more to say. That said, questions that must be addressed at some point are, if these compounds provide immuno-benefit then why is the incidence of illness from raw milk so great? Is it an immediate, linear benefit or is it a benefit that is acquired over time? Do these compounds provide any benefit at all? Are compounds beneficial to cows beneficial to humans at all?
There is evidence that raw milk contains compounds that fight infectious agents as stated in the PPT of Dexter and Fallon. Such agents are sensitive to heating and thus are likely to be largely lost in the pasteurization process. It is unknown if these compounds have beneficial health impacts on the human body. There is also a class of compounds that seem to promote positive immunity response. To what degree, over what time frame, and if beneficial to humans is not known. Once again, the tertiary structure of these proteins is sensitive to heating and thus would be expected to degrade with pasteurization.
As with any health study one should use caution in applying one study too broadly. The human body is complex as is the interaction of the cow with her environment. Further research is needed as stated above to provide a better understanding of how these compounds work, what benefit they might have, and why raw milk is linked to higher incidence of illness. Such information is needed to make a proper risk analysis with respect to raw milk consumption.
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