Feeding young children cow’s milk has always been contentious issue as many believe it could provoke allergic reaction.
Now a new pan-European study is arguing that fresh cow’s milk protects young children from developing respiratory infections, febrile illness and inflammation of the middle ear.
The results, which appear in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed that infants who are fed fresh milk rather than long-life UHT cow’s milk are less prone to infection.
Now the study’s Munich researchers are arguing from the development of alternative processing methods to preserve the protectants found in natural milk.
The long-term pasture study, which examines the role of dietary and environmental factors in the development of allergic illness, recruited 100 pregnant female participants.
The expectant mothers were then asked to document their children’s diet and state of health at weekly intervals in the first year of their child’s life.
“Among children who were fed on fresh, unprocessed cow’s milk the incidence of head colds and other respiratory infections, febrile and middle-ear inflammation was found to be significantly lower than in the group whose milk ration consisted of the commercially processed ultra-pasteurized product,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Georg Loss of Dr. von Hauner’s Hospital.
Ingestion of farm milk reduced the risk of developing these allergic conditions by up to 30 per cent. Interestingly the effect was diminished if the milk was heated at home before consumption.
Blood samples obtained from the children were tested for biochemical indicators and immunological function.
Those infants who were fed unprocessed milk were found to have lower levels of the C-reactive protein – a measure of inflammation status.
The expectant mothers were then asked to document their children’s diet and state of health at weekly intervals in the first year of their child’s life. Among the children who participated in the study only two per cent developed an allergy to milk or any other food items prior to their first birthday.
“Other studies have shown that higher levels of inflammation are related to the subsequent emergence of chronic conditions such as asthma and obesity. Consumption of unprocessed milk may therefore reduce the risk of developing asthma,” Dr. Loss explained.
Processing of milk usually involves short-term heating of the raw product. pasturized milk conventionally has been exposed to temperatures of 72-75 degrees celsius for 15 seconds. Ultra-pasturized milk undergoes heating around 135 degrees celsius for just a few seconds and then is later homoginized to disperse milk fats and prevent the formation cream.
But the researcher also warned that consumption of unprocessed milk is not entirely without risk as it may contain pathogenic bacteria that causes serious illness and even organ failure.
Instead they suggest a new way of processing milk is needed, one that could produce milk that is free of pathogenic microorganisms but still retains protective agents found in milk.
Fats and carbohydrates found in cow’s milk can also modulate the function of the human immune system.
“In many respects, the composition of cow’s milk is similar to that of human milk,” says Loss.
It has long been known that breast milk helps protects infants from infection, but just how the milk actually effects early immune function remains unclear. but scientists believe it could possibly be because they promote the development of a healthy immune system by altering the composition of microflora found in the gut.
Living in the country definitely has positive effects on the immune system has been demonstrated in several previous studies. Together these investigations show that “children who grow up on traditional dairy farms are least likely to develop allergies.”