Raw Milk Advocates Respond to Stanford Study that Claims Raw Milk is No Easier for the Lactose Intolerant to Digest

Researchers at Stanford University published findings from a pilot study in the March/April 2014 issue of Annals of Family Medicine that concluded there is little difference in digestibility between pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. These findings contradict anecdotal evidence from raw milk drinkers across the country, and the study is being criticized by raw milk advocates who cite sample size, length of testing and use of controls among the study’s flaws.

The study observed 16 participants who drank three different types of milk (pasteurized milk, raw milk, and soy milk) over the course of 8 days per type. Participants were randomly assigned the order of milk in unmarked containers. Each participant consumed one type of milk over the course of 8 days; they were tested for lactose via a hydrogen breath test on days 1 and 8. After a short break, they repeated the cycle with a different type of milk.

One of the study’s biggest flaws is its small sample size: the study only chose 16 participants after screening 440 applicants who claimed to have problems digesting milk.

Another large flaw is the brevity of the experiment. “It takes longer than eight days for beneficial bacteria to recolonize the gut of a severely lactose intolerant person. These good bacteria produce the lactase enzyme, which helps digest lactose,” says Mark McAfee, Chairman of the Board at the Raw Milk Institute.

Additionally, McAfee suggests that the H2 breath test is insufficient to diagnose milk sugar digestion problems in 97% of applicants. “Most people are not overtly lactose intolerant but are better described as pasteurization intolerant, something for which medical science may not [yet] have an appropriate test,” he says.

The Campaign for Real Milk is a project of the nutrition education non-profit, The Weston A. Price Foundation. Donate to help fund research into the benefits of nutrient dense foods.  http://www.westonaprice.org/lab

8 thoughts on “Raw Milk Advocates Respond to Stanford Study that Claims Raw Milk is No Easier for the Lactose Intolerant to Digest

  1. I’m not sure what to believe anymore, and have heard arguments from both sides. I’ve been in the dairy industry off and on for almost 23 years, although I’ve had cattle that whole time. My latest was a 7-1/2 year stretch, and up until mid March, I was still shipping milk conventionally (hauler increased hauling rate at a time when most of my herd was not lactating, so I’m taking a break, and looking into cow shares, because I got tired of giving my milk away whenever the market tanked). I don’t drink my milk raw, and am not going to stop those who want to–it should be their choice! I’ve provided this little bit of background before the reason for my comment here:

    I have a friend who was telling me he was ‘lactose intolerant’, and described his symptoms (mostly being gassy). Just for the heck of it, I talked him into trying some of my pasteurized, non-homogenized milk. HE DID NOT HAVE A PROBLEM. He said his daughter has problems too, and talked her into trying it. SAME RESULT. When he ate store bought ice cream, the symptoms returned. I’ve been reading about ‘homogenization’ being more of the culprit, rather than ‘pasteurization’.

    My small herd of cattle are rotationally grazed, and they are also fed grain ration tailored to my operation by a dairy nutritionist. I am not organic, but choose to treat my cattle when necessary. I know it’s easy for raw milk advocates to bash those who are/have been in conventional/commercial dairying. I jumped through all the hoops to acquire a Grade A dairy permit, and prefer to be informed. But, to each his own.

  2. Poppycock.

    My son (age 35) developed severe lactose intolerance about 10 years ago (likely from overuse of antibiotics). His reaction to even a tablespoon of milk is rapid, severe intestinal discomfort, followed by lots of horrible-smelling “passing gas.”

    While visiting me for an extended period (which qualified him, stretchingly legally, as “a member of my household”) I encouraged him to drink a 12-ounce glass of cold, fresh raw milk. He refused; I insisted. He said he would not be responsible for the consequences, which he claimed would drive everyone from the room.

    The result? Absolutely nothing. No discomfort of any kind, no gas at all.

    Granted, my test was only on one person, and had no control group. It still suggests Stanford’s “study” was potentially flawed, or even broken.

    • Same happened with me, except weeks after finishing the half-gallon of raw milk, I can now drink processed milk again. It’s almost like it reset something with gut bacteria or who knows what. But you won’t hear me complain. I have been sad for more than 20 years at my inability to drink more than a half cup of something I love

  3. I tend to agree with this article. Tried weening baby, 3.5 month old, off breast milk today with his first 4oz of raw milk..and he broke out with a full body rash and threw up soon after drinking the raw milk. When my wife was drinking pasteurized milk right after the baby was born he was getting rashes. She stopped drinking milk and his rash cleared up. Going to look into making the non dairy infant formula recipe on here because definitely do not want to use organic formula or conventional formula after researching what goes into them.

    • Look to more knowledgeable sources for more info on me, but not sure that weaning a 3.5 month-old off human breast milk and switching to straight cows milk is appropriate for a nearly newborn! Babies humans have different needs than calfs before they reach the age to begin digesting other foods. Though mom’s breast milk is almost always best, and I don’t know your reasons for weaning the little one, there is a raw cow’s milk homemade formula for babies you may consider that is promoted by Weston A Price foundation. Way to go for rejecting commercial processed infant formula though! Did your wife try drinking raw milk while nursing instead? What was the result compared to rash from when she drank the pasteurized milk? My understanding is that even raw milk promoters agree some breastfeeding babies need their mamas to take a break from milk while they are tiny until they outgrow this reaction. I may be mistaken, but might it have to do with whether mama’s gut is fully digesting the milk too? But go do some of your own research now because I’m no expert. Someone with more knowledge chime in here.

      • It is pretty common for infants to have an intolerance for the cow milk protein which is different from the sugar (lactose). Lactose is found in breast milk.l and lactose intolerance to breastfed infants is pretty uncommon. Look into intolerance or even allergies to milk protein in children and talk to your child’s pediatrician. I am not a medical professional, just a mom who has to give up cows milk for nursing.

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