It has been observed for many years that living on a farm reduces the risk for children to develop allergies and asthma. To better understand this protective effect, researchers at the University of Munich conducted a study of thousands of children from birth to age 6.
It turns out that a major protective factor was the consumption of unprocessed cow’s milk, as opposed to pasteurized milk.
Before addressing the milk issue, readers should know that growing up on a farm lessens the chance for allergies in general. This benefit is felt to be part of the hygiene hypothesis of allergy; that is, city dwellers who grow up in a “clean environment” have idle immune systems which allow the immune system to get into “allergic mischief.”
Farm children are exposed to a variety of animals, manure and dirt which keeps the immune system occupied and less likely to go into allergic mode.
The hygiene issue aside, farm children who drank boiled or pasteurized milk were not as “protected” from allergy as their young farm friends who drank raw milk.
As it turns out, the difference is that pasteurization reduces polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) that are protective. These same PUFAs are dietary precursors for natural anti-inflammatory mediators made by our immune systems.
Children with high PUFA intake make lots of these natural anti-inflammatory molecules and benefit from the protection against allergic/asthmatic inflammation.
Raw milk is available from local cattle ranchers.