Infants who were fed fresh cow’s milk, compared with infants given ultra-high temperature (UHT) cow’s milk, were less prone to respiratory infection, results of a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology indicate.

“Breast-feeding is protective against respiratory infections in early life,” wrote Georg Loss, PhD, of Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital in Munich, Germany and colleagues. “Given the co-evolutionary adaptations of humans and cattle, bovine milk might exert similar anti-infective effects in human infants.”

To study the effects of consumption of raw and processed cow’s milk on common infections in infants, the investigators followed 983 infants from rural areas in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, and Switzerland throughout their first year of life, covering 37,306 person-weeks.

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Consumption of different types of cow’s milk and occurrence of rhinitis, respiratory tract infections, otitis, and fever were assessed by weekly health diaries. C-reactive protein levels were assessed using blood samples taken at age 12 months.

When contrasted with UHT milk, raw milk consumption was inversely associated with occurrence of rhinitis (adjusted odds ratio, 0.71; 95% CI: 0.54-0.94), respiratory tract infections (adjusted odds ratio, 0.77; 95% CI: 0.59-0.99), otitis (adjusted odds ratio, 0.14; 95% CI: 0.05-0.42), and fever (adjusted odds ratio, 0.69; 95% CI: 0.47-1.01). Boiled farm milk showed similar but weaker associations, according to the investigators.

Industrially processed pasteurized milk was inversely associated with fever.Raw farm milk consumption was inversely associated with C-reactive protein levels at 12 months (means ratio, 0.66; 95% CI: 0.45-0.98).

“If the health hazards of raw milk could be overcome, the public health impact of minimally processed but pathogen-free milk might be enormous, given the high prevalence of respiratory infections in the first year of life and the associated direct and indirect costs,” concluded the researchers.


  1. Loss G et al. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2014; doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2014.08.044