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Stanford study spoils hopes that raw milk can aid those who are lactose-intolerant

milk in fridge

I have a few friends who can tell pretty quickly when they've eaten a food that contains milk or lactose, the sugar found in milk. The signs are unpleasant -- mostly gas and diarrhea (yuck!). So they were interested when I told them that a nutrition researcher at Stanford was conducting a clinical trial to test the validity of claims that people who are lactose-intolerant can digest raw milk more easily than pasteurized milk.

Unfortunately for them, the claims don't hold up.

In my news release about the study, which was published today in the Annals of Family Medicine, professor of medicine Christopher Gardner, PhD, found no difference in digestibility between the two.

Although the study was small -- just 16 participants who were lactose-intolerant -- the results were highly consistent among all the participants. As Gardner notes in the press release, "It’s not that there was a trend toward a benefit from raw milk and our study wasn’t big enough to capture it; it’s that there was no hint of any benefit.”

One thing that surprised Gardner was how many people believe they are lactose-intolerant because of the symptoms they experience, yet don't meet the clinical standard for the condition. In fact, Gardner originally recruited 63 potential study participants, but only 43 percent of them actually met the standard.

So, what's causing the discomfort that this group of people feel when they consume milk products? And would raw milk -- which hasn't been pasteurized and which proponents say contains "good" bacteria that may aid digestion -- help folks who don't meet the clinical definition of being lactose-intolerant? Gardner says he hopes other researchers will try to answer those questions.

Previously: Stanford pediatrician and others urge people to shun raw milk and products
Photograph by chrisdat

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