DEAR DR. BLONZ: At a recent lecture, a doctor of natural medicine touched on the topic of milk homogenization, saying that it could be a major cause of heart disease and should be avoided. As it was explained, this theory was put forth by the chief of cardiology at a hospital. Proponents of this theory point to the fact that heart disease rates are much lower in countries, such as France, that don’t homogenize most of their milk, and higher in countries, such as Finland, that do. Do you know if any studies have been done, or are in progress, to substantiate the damaging effects of homogenization?
Also, are dairy products such as yogurt and cheese subject to homogenization? -- J.L., Casa Grande, Arizona
DEAR J.L.: Hearing something at a lecture does not make it so. There is little scientific support for these charges.
Milk is about 3.7 percent fat by weight as it comes out of the cow. The fat exists in globules of various sizes. If allowed to sit, these fat globules would rise to the top because fat is less dense than water. Homogenization is a physical process that changes the size of the milk-fat globules into a smaller, more uniform size. This is accomplished by forcing the milk through a small opening under pressure. After that, the milk fat remains evenly distributed throughout the milk, and the globules do not rise to the top.
One exception to this would be if the milk were frozen: When that happens, the water forms into ice crystals that separate from the fat. Upon defrosting, the fat globules will once again rise to the top as they did before the milk was homogenized.
Most commercial milk products, including yogurt and cheese, are made from homogenized milk.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I am hoping you can explain something for me. The front label of a product I use says “sweetened only with malted barley,” but the nutrition label says the product has “13 grams of sugars.” Can both be correct? This is important for me to know, as I am a diabetic. I like the product, and I would like to keep using it. -- F.D., Berkeley, California
DEAR F.D.: Malted barley is produced by allowing the barley grain to sprout. This causes the grain to produce higher levels of a starch-digesting enzyme that breaks the grain down to simpler sugars. The 13 grams of “sugar” are probably maltose, a double-sugar that breaks into two molecules of glucose upon digestion. As a diabetic, you should treat maltose as you would any sugar.
Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to email@example.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.