The drinking of unpasteurised milk found to be associated with lower rates of childhood asthma

Asthma is a condition characterised by episodes of narrowing in the airways (bronchospasm). The condition can be related to one or more of several underlying factors, including food sensitivity. In some individuals, specific foods seem to have the ability to trigger immune responses in the lungs that cause bronchospasm. While any food may do this in theory, experience in practice reveals dairy products, particularly cow’s milk and cheese, to be common culprits.

Because of this proposed mechanism, I was interested to read reports today of a study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy which has found that children drinking unpasteurised milk are at significantly reduced risk of having asthma. The study, which assessed almost 15,000 children aged 5 to 13 in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, found that those children drinking unpasteurised milk were 25 per cent likely to suffer from asthma compared to children who did not [1].

One theory that has been put forward to explain this finding is that unpasteurised milk contains healthy bacteria – probiotics ” that can reduce the risk of allergic conditions, including asthma.
This explanation is plausible, though there are other potential reasons why raw dairy products may be better for us than pasteurised products.

In natural medicine, food sensitivity is often taken to be the result of the absorption of incompletely digested protein molecules through the gut wall, which then go on to trigger immune responses. Pasteurisation is believed to change protein molecules in a way that makes them, essentially, more difficult to digest. Because of this, pasteurised dairy products should, in theory, be more likely to give rise to problems with food sensitivity and related conditions such as asthma compared to raw products.

I am not aware of any research which proves this theory, but anecdotally many individuals report that they tolerate raw milk products better than pasteurised fare. This most recent research in children seems to bear this out.

Raw dairy products are, unfortunately, not a viable option for many of us. However, I generally suggest considering goat’s and sheep’s products as an alternative to cow’s dairy products. In my experience, goat’s and sheep;s products (e.g. milk, cheese and yoghurt) are usually much better tolerated, and far less likely to cause food sensitivity issues.


1. Waser M, et al. Inverse association of farm milk consumption with asthma and allergy in rural and suburban populations across Europe. Clinical & Experimental Allergy 2007;37(5):661″670.

9 Responses to The drinking of unpasteurised milk found to be associated with lower rates of childhood asthma

  1. ally 11 May 2007 at 5:36 pm #

    but surely most goats milk is pasturised too – not many would be able to purchase raw milk which may have the same risks as unpasteurised cows milk – esp TB. I certainly would not drink unpast milk of any kind!

    Maybe the sensible thing to do is add the probiotic bacteria to a dairy product!

  2. Tiggy 11 May 2007 at 7:46 pm #

    Is it possible to get unpasteurised milk in this country? I know in the US it’s illegal, but people get round it by buying shares in a cow.

    Does it taste different? I’ve had it straight from the cow in France, but it had all this cream floating on the top which is a turn off.

    What’s wrong with soya milk?

  3. ally 12 May 2007 at 3:52 pm #

    soya milk tastes disgusting

  4. lu 12 May 2007 at 6:55 pm #

    some soya milk tastes digusting but actually some are lovely. you just have to find the right one for you.
    alpro, sweetened, fresh is fantastic, from the chiller cabinet in your local supermarket, and now even better there exists a low fat version, god i sound like an advert.
    also, the asthma thing seems to figure, logically, people are not eating unpasteurised anymore and asthma has increased out of all proportion, granted is it also due to double glazing, carpets, overheated houses, pollution and too many chemicals, but, unpasteurised tastes 100 times better and is healthier, t.b. is vaccinated out of dairy cattle. anyway don’t we all have innoculations against that nowadays? the floaty cream is in the milk when you buy it pasteurized, but as they also homogenise it it becomes spread about in to the whole volume of liquid and you don’t see it, it’s still there, unless you buy semi-skimmed or skimmed. some fat is good for you, just not too much. what’s the problem? it’s necessary for the skin, hair and nails, do you want brittle nails, dry hair and wrinkly skin, just because you are afraid of a little fat? hmmm, just run up the stairs a bit more often to make up for it.
    i lived in switzerland as a child and i had raw milk and i am fine. swiss cows are lovely and friendly too.
    try unpasteurised cheeses too while your’e at it, because believe me they are fab. and it’s a whole different taste experience.

  5. Neil 12 May 2007 at 8:51 pm #

    Perhaps the lengths one has to go to turn soya into anything remotely edible is Nature’s way of telling us to leave it alone and stick to using it for plant fertiliser and soy sauce

  6. Sarah Cohen 12 May 2007 at 9:40 pm #

    Unpasteurised milk is excellent and yes it tastes different. You can obtain it in this county but only directly from the farm where it is produced or delivered to your door step by that farm. M y daughter gets raw biodynamic milk delivered to her door from Plaw Hatch farm near east grinstead in Sussex and it is wonderful. It is also from cows who have not had their horns removed and there is some research from Germany that indicates that leaving the horns on cattle produces milk which is acceptable by people who are other wise lactose intolerant. If you search for unpasteruised milk you can find other suppliers throughtout the country – worth searching for.

  7. ally 13 May 2007 at 8:08 am #

    do u realise how much there is a risk of tb – it is rife in cattle and goats. Also eating unpasturised cheese inc the risk of e coli – your choice i suppose! Especially dangerous for pregnant women!
    The increase in asthma is multi factorial – you cant just blame milk!

  8. Sophie 24 August 2007 at 12:59 pm #

    I live in switzerland in the winter and I have got TB from drinking/eating unpasturised milk products.
    Im from the UK and I didnt no they wernt pasterised and had no idea of the risk. Im sticking to soya from now on while im out there.

  9. MinorityView 1 June 2008 at 3:03 pm #

    Drank unpasteurized milk through most of my childhood, along with my 4 siblings. We are now middle-aged adults, all fairly healthy. I like the cream on top! Alas, I can’t do milk any longer, although cheeses are okay, ditto yogurt. I think the value of pasteurization is overrated and the dangers of disease from milk blown out of proportion.

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