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Thursday, 23 November 2017 01:09 pm

Families who drink raw milk wanted for study into health benefits

Jul 30th, 2014 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Front Page Layout, Lead Story, News

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MILK MAN: Dr Collin Brooks in his natural habitat. IMAGE: Liam Cavanagh

FAMILIES with children who drink raw milk are wanted for a study looking at its potential health benefits.

Massey University scientists hope to find out if drinking raw milk is associated with beneficial effects against allergies.

Families with children between the ages of six and 18 in urban areas are wanted, says Dr Collin Brooks of the Centre for Public Health Research.

The study is funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Studies in Europe suggest farming populations seem to have lower rates of asthma and allergies which could be due to drinking raw milk.

However this is difficult to confirm because farming populations have unique exposures compared to people living in urban areas, says Dr Brooks.

These exposures include regular contact with farm animals, such as cows or sheep.

The Massey University study would suggest if there is a link between drinking raw milk and lower rates of asthma and allergies, it would likely be due to drinking raw milk alone, rather than other aspects of living on a farm.

This study is the first of its kind looking specifically at raw milk consumption in non-farmers, says Dr Brooks.

Nurses will go to participants’ homes to conduct tests, which include a lung function test, skin prick test, and will take blood samples.

Scientists are also interested in talking to anyone who drinks raw milk, including those who live on farms.

“We would love to have people who drink raw milk taking part in at least the preliminary questionnaire part of the study, even if they don’t have families,” says Dr Brooks.

“It will give us a better understanding of why people choose to drink raw milk,” he says.

To take part in the clinical assessment aspect of the study however, you have to live in an urban area, says Dr Brooks.

“You can’t live on a lifestyle section with four acres and cows, the kids and the dog,” he says.

They hope to use the study to find an intervention or way of reducing asthma and allergies in New Zealand and globally.

Dr Brooks is aware the issue of raw milk is an emotive one, but personally has no issues with people drinking it.

“People have the right to make their own decisions as long as they take the known risks into consideration,” he says.

Mother of two Fay Rhodes, whose family drinks raw milk, says the study is good because she currently relies on Google for information.

It would be interesting to know more about it from a parents’ perspective, and the effects on legislation the study might have, she says.

People can buy raw milk from farmers direct by telephone or email but cannot buy it from the supermarkets, says Dr Brooks.

Professor Jeroen Douwes heads the study at the Centre of Public Health Research, alongside Dr Brooks and Dr Amanda Eng.

They also collaborate with others from Otago and Victoria University, the Malaghan Institute, and the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Anyone who would like to take part in the study can visit the Centre for Public Health Research website or call 0800 080 706.

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The Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University, Wellington. IMAGE: Liam Cavanagh

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