History and curiosity
In prehistoric times, the first milk to be drunk by people was certainly goat milk, even before sheep milk. Goat’s milk has long been the first food of children of the Mediterranean civilizations and the Middle East. It was cited by many poets of ancient Rome, for example Catullo and Virgil.
Later, Pope Leo XIII (Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci) made goat milk his favorite drink and advised goat milk consumption throughout his pontificate.
Mohandas Gandhi Karamchad, better known as Gandhi, was a great devotee of goat milk and recommended drinking goat milk throughout all of his life to the Indian people for its nutritional and dietary interests.
In the third world, raising goats for their milk, still constitutes today a food base and therefore cannot be ignored anymore.
Goat milk: a nutritious drink, well absorbed by the body
A scientific study showed that goat milk can be considered a functional food1.
Consumption of goat milk by individuals with anemia from iron deficiency improves their recovery, since goat milk increases the feed efficiency of iron and the regeneration of hemoglobin. That is to say that this type of milk minimizes the interaction between the calcium and iron. On the other hand, goat milk protects the stability of DNA in overload derivative iron situations of prolonged treatments with this mineral to compensate anemia.
The researchers found that goat milk has many nutrients that make it similar to human milk, as casein. Goat milk contains less casein alpha 1 type, responsible for most allergies to cow’s milk. This makes goat milk hypoallergenic.
Goat milk that promotes intestinal flora
Another goat milk benefit is related to the amount and nature of its oligosaccharides. Goat milk has more oligosaccharides with a composition similar to that of breast milk. These compounds reach the large intestine without being digested and act as probiotics, contributing to the development of probiotic flora that eliminates pathogenic bacterial flora.
Goat milk contains a lower proportion of lactose than cow milk, about 1% lower, but its digestibility is higher. Goat milk can be tolerated by some individuals with intolerance to this sugar in milk. But beware, this does not mean that there can be no allergic reaction to goat’s milk. Sometimes people can be allergic to casein in the milk.
The essential difference between the composition of cow’s milk and goat’s milk is in the nature of its fat. Goat’s milk contains more essential fatty acids (linoleic and arachuidonique) than cow’s milk.
Both are part of the omega 6 series. On the other hand, it has 30-35% of medium chain fatty acids (C6-C14) MCT, as compared to the 15-20% in cow’s milk. These fatty acids are a quick source of energy and are not stored as fat. In addition, fat goat’s milk lowers total cholesterol levels and maintains adequate levels of triglycerides and transaminases (GOT and GPT). This makes it a food of choice for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
A highly absorbable source of calcium
The scientists report that as regards its mineral composition, goat milk is rich in calcium and phosphorus. Goat’s milk is highly bioavailable and easily incorporated in the organic matrix of bone, resulting in improved bone formation parameters. Goat’s milk likewise has a high amount of zinc and selenium, which are essential micronutrients for the antioxidant defense and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.
According to the researchers, all these reasons can explain why goat milk can be considered as a natural functional food whose regular consumption (or one of its derivatives) must be encouraged for everyone. But especially for people having allergies, intolerance to cow’s milk, absorption problems, high cholesterol, anemia, osteoporosis, or have been the subject of prolonged treatments with iron supplements.
Goat’s milk protects against infections
Goat’s milk contains four times more oligosaccharides than cow’s milk (about 23 mg / 100 g against 6 mg / 100 g). These sugars act as probiotics and promote the development and growth of intestinal bacteria, important to strengthen the immune system.
Goat milk is rich in vitamins
Goat milk contains more minerals than cow’s milk. It provides the vitamins of group B. B1 vitamins are good for the nervous and muscular system. B2 vitamins are useful for tissues. Rich in vitamin B5, goat’s milk helps the development of skin, nails and good hair. As it contains vitamins B3, it is good for growth. Rich in vitamin A, goat’s milk helps maintain good vision and increases resistance to infections. It also contains vitamin D, the antirachitic properties for childrens.
One small weakness of goat milk is that it naturally contains less folic acid (vitamin B9, essential for the formation of red blood cells and nerve cells) than cow. This is why its UHT (Ultra High Temperature) milk is enriched with vitamins B9.
Goat milk is a good source of calcium and protein. A single glass of goat milk provides on average 33% of the daily calcium (against 25% for cow’s milk) and 17% of the daily intake of protein per day.
Goat milk contains leptin
Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells. This hormone has several physiological effects on the body such as the regulation of energy balance and neuroendocrine functions, some of which are related to the development: the balance between glucose and insulin, the immune system and the development of the central nervous system. In addition, since some time the hypothesis is that a disturbance in the metabolism of leptin contributes to obesity.
Leptin has been found in breast milk, milk of mice and certain other animals. The question was whether leptin was present in goat milk, and whether leptin could have an effect on the consumer (human). Babies fed with breast milk, have indeed a higher content of leptin in blood than babies who receive powdered milk. It is also recognized that breastfed babies show differences on certain points compared to babies fed with a milk replacement.
Research has also shown that the growth curve is more higher upon increasing amount of leptin in breast milk . Leptin is certainly present in goat milk. Colostrum (the first milk after birth lambs) contains much of it. Then its content decreases gradually to a more or less stable concentration.
Goat milk cholesterol reducing effect
Goat milk has a more pronounced reducing effect on the cholesterol than cow’s milk. This was demonstrated in tests on animals, but not in clinical studies. The reason for this greater effect is the reduced cholesterol levels and increased content of components that lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
This had long been known, but recent studies provide net consumption of the cholesterol reducing effect. Goat milk is rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFA): 60% more in comparison with cow milk. These fatty acids reduce the formation of cholesterol in the body and limit the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines.
The increased secretion of cholesterol via the bile, may also be the result of an effect of the medium chain fatty acids. Goat’s milk contains also more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and proof has been provided that they stimulate the secretion of cholesterol.
In the above we have already indicated that overall milk has anti-oxidative capacity, but in the meantime it has also been proven that goat milk has more efficient anti-oxidative capacity. We clearly see the parallel with vegetables and fruit that a high level of antioxidants is beneficial for lowering cholesterol levels.
All these results offer a clear view of what is important: It is not the amount of cholesterol, but the effects on the cholesterol balance. For its high content of medium chain fatty acids and anti-oxidative effect, goat milk contributes at several levels to the removal of too much cholesterol in the body.
Goat milk effect on the immune system
An important task of our immune system is protection against pathogenic microorganisms. Milk consumption contributes to this task, in part due the presence of many enzymes.
Milk naturally contains microorganisms, even undesirable. It should therefore be noted that the components of milk are not only functional for the consumer of milk. Firstly they protect the milk itself against premature deterioration.
Besides enzymes, milk contains a large number of other bioactives, which may have an immunological effect on the body. Oligosaccharides are present at 5 to 8g per liter, the third highest concentration in breast milk after lactose and fat. Goat milk contains 20 times less than breast milk, but cow’s milk still contains 10 times less than the goat milk.
Children receiving breastfeeding are better protected against infections than children who receive only milk powder.
This is attributed to the oligosaccharides in human milk: on one hand they protect against pathogenic bacteria in the intestines, and secondly they stimulate the growth of bifido-bacteria (beneficial) in the gastrointestinal tract.
It has recently been proven that the oligosaccharides are also capable of sequestering microorganisms. In addition it has been shown that oligosaccharides play an important role in the development and differentiation of intestinal tissue of newborns. All this is possible because the oligosaccharides are not digested in the upper digestive tract but are processed only in the intestines.
Based on this perspective, nowadays tests are conducted (at the animal level) with oligosaccharides as drugs against inflammation of the intestines. Its therapy today involves treatment with corticoids which can indeed be effective, but may cause a series of side effects.
Compared to cow’s milk, goat’s milk is not only ten times as rich in oligosaccharides, you will also find many different oligosaccharides (including branched molecules).
Oligosaccharides in goat milk can have an anti-inflammatory effect, and therefore goat milk is recommended for patients suffering from bowel disease such as colitis or Crohn’s disease. There are at the same time indications for a probiotic effect by selective stimulation of beneficial microbiota in the intestines.
Is goat milk less allergenic than cow’s milk?
About 5 to 10% of young children present a food allergy. The most common allergy is that due to cow’s milk.
Often children’s who were initially breastfed, and then switched to powdered milk, develop a sensitivity to milk and even show symptoms after cow milk consumption. Soy milk or hydrolyzed formulas may offer an alternative, but can in no way be compared to the qualities of breast milk or raw milk as for example in bioactive components.
For a long period of time, goat milk was presented as an alternative to cow’s milk in case of allergy. Some allergic children appear to support derivatives of goat milk. Further tests were rather contradictory. In some cases the allergy to cow’s milk coincided with goat milk allergy. There are even reports that mention an allergy to goat milk, where cow’s milk was no problem.
According to some researchers, it is crucial to avoid cow’s milk as a first milk replacement for breast milk. Based on studies related to allergies, it is also accepted that the differences between cow’s milk and goat’s milk are due to the lower content of alpha casein in goat milk2.
This important dairy allergen serves as a support for other allergens such as betalactoglobuline. The latter is attached to the casein micelles, making food harder to digest. In this way the milk allergen in goat milk would be relatively easier to digest and less allergenic3.
In addition we must consider that there is a clear difference between intolerance (or hypolactasia) and allergy. Some allergic people supposedly present a simple intolerance. After consumption of excess lactose, they are subject to bloating, possibly accompanied by diarrhea. There is often a lack of enzymes due to heredity, but it can also be a side effect of other diseases.
People with lactose intolerance can usually consume lactose 12 grams a day without symptoms (equivalent of a glass of milk). Lactose can indeed be metabolized by intestinal bacteria.
We cannot conclude that goat milk is not or generally less allergenic. However, research shows that it would be better to choose goat milk as a milk substitute to breast milk.
- University of Granada. Goat milk can be considered as functional food, Spanish researchers find. ScienceDaily. 19 May 2011.
- Roncada, P., Gaviraghi, A., Liberatori, S., Canas, B., Bini, L. and Greppi, G. F. Identification of caseins in goat milk. Proteomics. 2002 Jun;2(6):723-6.
- Haycraft VL. How Goat’s Milk Is Healthier Than Cow’s Milk. Goat Milk Nutrition. 1994