Do you remember the days when all whole milk had a big head of cream on the top of it? Where did it go? Most milk in our supermarkets these days, even full fat milk is uniform all the way through. So what happened and what is the problem with creamless milk?
Homogenisation is what happened: A process first patented in 1899 which forces milk through a tight mesh at intense speed and pressure to cause the fat to hang in suspension instead of rise to the top. The aim originally was to make milk easier to drink without that pesky cream getting in the way and more importantly to extend its shelf life. However there is a big problem. This is not the way we are meant to consume milk and as is the case with many things: when we change the natural state of a substance we are asking for trouble.
The process of homogenisation creates microscopic spheres of fat containing the powerful digestive enzyme xanthine oxidase (XO). XO is normally present in healthy butter milk but is contained in larger fat globules and is safely excreted through the digestive system, however in homogenised milk these fat globules are now so tiny that they are able to pass intact through the stomach and intestine walls into the blood and lymph systems where XO acts like lots of tiny sharp knives constantly creating wounds wherever they reach. This constant irritation leads to inflammation and the release of free radicals which cause further damage.
Free radicals are tiny particles which occur naturally in the body as part of the immune system and response to inflammation where they annihilate foreign invaders. However when there are too many of them (as in chronic inflammation) or where they are produced elsewhere in the body, they cause huge damage. This is known as oxidative stress and is believed by most experts to be the underlying cause for most degenerative disease we see today. (More on this in future blog posts) The good news is that antioxidants neutralise free radicals before they are able to do too much damage, but the body is only able to neutralise the effects of these free radicals if it makes or consumes (and absorbs) enough antioxidants.
There are numerous things which are known to increase the body’s production of free radicals including cigarette smoking, excessive exercise, stress and air pollution. Over processed food is another thing which is known to cause more free radicals in the body. The homogenisation of milk and more specifically the enzyme Xanthine Oxidase is a central generator of free radicals and is linked to as many as 50 illnesses from Alzheimer’s and arthritis to diabetes and cancer.
The wounds that XO produces in our arteries need to be patched up and the thing that patches them is.... cholesterol. The more this damage occurs the more cholesterol will be called upon to help patch up these wounds thereby contributing to the formation of plaques which can lead to hardening or blocking of the arteries (heart disease) and death. So is cholesterol just doing its job and not really the ‘baddie’ we have all been led to believe it is? (More on this in a future blog post). In light of this we would be better off if we could help prevent the wounds occurring in the first place.
So homogenised milk is best avoided then if you want to stay healthy, but ‘Where can we get unhomogenised milk’? I hear you cry!
It is possible to find unhomogenised milk in most supermarkets. It may not be organic, but considering the risks I would rather opt for non-organic unhomogenised milk than organic full fat homogenised milk. In many mainstream supermarkets you can buy milk from Jersey or Guernsey Cows which has a lovely creamy head on it and is clearly labelled as unhomogenised.
However if you want to stick to organic, Prince Charles’ farm (which makes the brand ‘Duchy Originals’) produces organic unhomogenised milk and is available at some top end supermarkets in the UK.
Local farmers’ markets are another good source of unhomogenised organic milk.
May Allah (swt) grant you all the best of health.