If you’re like most Americans, you were raised—thanks in large part to the U.S. government and National Dairy Council—to believe that several daily glasses of milk were good for you. On the other hand, a growing number of doctors and researchers say that milk and other dairy products may worsen inflammation, allergies, asthma, and other health problems. Some experts also theorize that lactose intolerance—the inability to digest milk sugar—is a signal from our bodies that we shouldn’t be drinking animal milk at all.

The Raw Deal
There’s another side to the dairy debate: raw milk.

Once a dinner-table staple, raw milk’s popularity decreased during the 20th century, with the advent of pasteurization, a process that kills E. coli and other pathogens with heat. But that may not be all that pasteurization destroys, say raw milk advocates, who claim the process also kills beneficial bacteria, proteins, vitamins, and digestive enzymes.

Instead, they praise raw milk’s nutritional value, creamy flavor, and alleged health benefits for conditions like eczema, allergies and Crohn’s disease. They may be right: A study published in the June 2006 issue of the Journal of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that British children who drank raw milk regularly were 40 percent less likely to develop eczema and 10 percent less likely to develop hay fever than those who didn’t drink raw milk.

Not so fast, says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whose director of dairy and egg safety has likened drinking raw milk to “playing Russian roulette with your health.” The FDA claims it’s safe to drink milk from cloned cows, but has banned interstate sales of raw milk—although individual states can determine commerce within their borders. Currently, raw milk is legal in 22 states and its devotees are growing in number: An estimated half-million Americans drink it.

Liquid Assets
The issue isn’t as simple as the FDA implies, however. All raw milk isn’t created equal, point out advocates. Yes, raw milk is unhealthy—if it comes from an industrial dairy. They view pasteurization as an excuse to produce dirty milk: Pasteurization doesn’t prevent contamination, it merely kills germs after they surface. In fact, outbreaks of salmonella, listeria and Campylobacter have been traced to pasteurized milk and cheese.

Unlike industrial dairies whose milk is later pasteurized, raw milk dairies tend to be cleaner and their cows are fed organic grass rather than corn. When purchased from such dairies, raw milk may be healthier, safer—and tastier—than pasteurized varieties.

Click here to find a raw-milk distributor in your area.

Could you cut out milk from your diet altogether?

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