How does the homogenization process affect the health properties of milk? Is unhomogenized milk better for you?
Some people who are neither allergic nor lactose intolerant still feel that they tolerate unhomogenized milk better than homogenized. However, when researchers did double-blind tests, they found that subjects were just as likely to report symptoms with unhomogenized as with homogenized milk, suggesting that the perceived difference is mostly a placebo effect.
Does Homogenization Affect Vitamin D Absorption?
Just this week, someone posted a comment on the Nutrition Diva website claiming that the smaller fat particles in homogenized milk bind to vitamin D, which then impairs your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Quite frankly, this was news to me.
I’m always interested to hear from you about new research or research that I’ve overlooked. Unfortunately, this particular commenter included no references or citations. Despite an extensive search, I was unable to find a single study, paper, or reference to support the idea that homogenization has a negative impact on either your vitamin D or your calcium status. Rather, I found evidence that consuming homogenized milk that’s been fortified with vitamin D leads (as you might expect) to improved vitamin D and calcium status.
That said, as I’ve discussed in previous articles, although cow’s milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin D, it is certainly not the only source for either nutrient, nor is milk essential to a healthy diet.
Homogenization vs. Pasteurization
Finally, I want to be sure we don’t confuse homogenization with pasteurization, because the two have nothing to do with one another. Pasteurization has to do with killing bacteria; homogenization has to do with emulsifying fat—and milk can be either, neither, or both. Organic certification is also completely unrelated to whether the milk is homogenized or pasteurized.
Here’s the bottom line on homogenization: If you like the idea of eating closer to nature, unhomogenized milk is definitely less processed. You may also enjoy the flavor or texture (or perhaps the nostalgia) of milk where the cream floats to the top. Unhomogenized milk is always full-fat whole milk, by the way. If you want reduced fat milk, you’ll need to pour off some of the cream before shaking it up. If, on the other hand, you prefer the flavor, texture, or convenience of homogenized milk, there doesn’t appear to be any danger in choosing that instead.
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