Given all the chemical additives which have appeared in our food over the last several decades, it’s no wonder that so many people have been trying to eat natural foods as often as possible. And unprocessed foods are unarguably healthier overall.
But it appears some are taking the “back-to-natural” trend a bit too far, at potential risk to the health they’re trying to preserve. Your concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter, Florida, at MD 2.0 would like to draw your attention to three of the most recent health concerns related to the so-called “raw” movement: raw oysters, raw milk, and “raw water.”
People have been enjoying raw oysters since humans first discovered they were edible. The vast majority of them suffer no ill effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, a potentially deadly bacterial infection called Vibrio vulnificus arises from 52,000 cases of contaminated food each each year. Most of those infected recover from the resulting diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills. But severe cases can result in bloodstream infections and blistering skin lesions. Approximately 100 of these cases result in death each year.
CBS News reported this week that a woman in Texas died from this infection in September from eating raw oysters.
“There’s no easy way to tell the difference between a contaminated oyster and those who are not,” CBS reported. “Vibrio is not something you can see, smell, or taste. . . . So, to reduce your chance of getting vibriosis, experts recommend eating oysters cooked, not raw.”
Like oysters, humans have been drinking raw milk for thousands of years. That is, milk that has not been pasteurized. Louis Pasteur developed the process in 1864 to prevent such pathogens as brucellosis, bovine tuberculosis, and E. coli from infecting those who drink milk. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) caution that drinking raw milk can introduce such potential pathogens as streptococcal infections, among others.
“This raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria,” the FDA says. “These harmful bacteria can seriously affect the health of anyone who drinks raw milk. However, the bacteria in raw milk can be especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women, and children.”
Raw milk proponents say that it not only tastes better, but is healthier overall. Realmilk.com claims that consuming raw milk produces better bone structure, better organ development, better nutrient assimilation, better fertility, and even can help relieve symptoms of asthma and allergies in children. Others claim it benefits skin quality and weight loss.
Many drink it exclusively with no ill effects. But, as with raw oysters, it’s a risk consumers are taking.
“ ‘Raw water’ is the latest health craze,” The Washington Post reported last week. Proponents contend that untreated water—unlike what’s available in most urban water systems—is better for you because it contains beneficial bacteria and natural minerals from the earth. The paper points out that the trace minerals you need are available from a healthy diet.
“But by shunning recommended water safety practices,” The Post wrote, experts warn that “raw water purveyors may also be selling things you don’t want to drink—dangerous bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can make you sick.”
In reporting on the craze, Business Insider spoke with food-safety advocate Bill Marler, who said, “Almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in [untreated] water,” including bacteria and such diseases as cholera, E. coli, Hepatitis A, and giardiasis.
Time Magazine noted that while tap water is treated to remove 91 different contaminants, there’s little data to show what’s in raw water, which can include anything from agricultural runoff to wild animals relieving themselves in the source of the water.
In general, “we have an incredibly safe and reliable water supply” in this country, David Jones, professor of history of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told The Post. An Arizona Daily Sun headline read, “ ‘Raw water’ craze is crazy, experts say.”
So listen to the proponents of these “raw” movements, if you will, but understand the risk you may be taking with your health. And be sure to contact us if you’re using any of these products and experience severe gastrointestinal or any other symptoms.