Kids who regularly drink raw, unprocessed milk are less likely to develop asthma than kids who drink industrially processed milk, says a new joint study by researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) and Marburg University.

The study is part of a long term research project called PASTURE which has been following more than 1,000 children growing up in rural areas. The mothers record their children’s illnesses and nutrition from birth to age 6. Then researchers go through all the data. While doing so, researchers found that kids who regularly drink unprocessed milk had much lower asthma rates. Why?

“The effect can be partly explained by the higher overall fat content and the higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in farm milk,” explained Tabea Brick, a member of LMU’s research team. Omega-3 fatty acids aid in the synthesis of anti-inflammatory substances in the body. They are also believed to promote good health. But the human body can’t make these acids itself, so they have to be acquired from other sources, in this case unprocessed milk.

However, researchers warned that they do not recommend children drink unprocessed milk as it contains harmful micro-organisms. When raw milk goes through industrial processing-- pasteurization, homogenization, etc.-- the harmful organisms are removed, but so are much of the omega-3 fatty acids. So what’s the solution? The researchers are arguing for milder processing methods that will allow milk to retain the omega-3 fatty acids while still getting rid of the dangerous micro-organisms.