Drinking farm milk can protect children against asthma and hayfever, according to a study of nearly 15,000 children published in the May issue of Clinical and Experimental Allergy.
But consuming farm milk that hasnt been boiled poses serious health risks and further research is needed to develop a safe product that still provides good protection against these common childhood diseases.
Researchers from Europe and the USA studied 14,893 children aged between five and 13 in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.
The children were drawn from farm children, rural and suburban communities and Rudolph Steiner schools, which primarily cater for families with anthroposcopic lifestyles, who restrict their use of antibiotics, vaccinations, fever-reducing drugs and often follow a biodynamic diet.
Parents were asked to complete detailed questionnaires about their childs consumption of milk, butter, yoghurt, eggs and fruit and vegetables and whether they were farm-produced or shop-bought.
They also answered questions about their childs height and weight, whether they were breastfed and any allergies or asthma problems affecting the child or their family.
Allergy- related blood tests were also carried out on just under 4,000 children from across the five countries and the questionnaire results were validated with random telephone interviews with 493 respondents
The researchers discovered that children who drank farm milk were much less likely to suffer from hayfever and asthma.
Lower levels of diagnosed asthma were also observed for all farm-produced dairy products and eating farm eggs also provided protection against hayfever. However, these foods only provided increased protection when the children also drank unpasteurised farm milk not in isolation.
None of the farm products had any effect on eczema levels.