High Pressure Pasteurization: Is it Healthy?

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by Dr. Michael Boss, DC

I spend a lot of time in my practice answering questions from confused clients and patients. Many don’t know what to believe when it comes to most health and wellness topics, so they ask me. A recent case in point is a question from a client about high pressure pasteurization (HPP) in the juicing industry.

I know a bit about juicing as a medical professional, and I have been affiliated with Juicer Heroes, which produces cold-pressed juices, for the past two years. But when asked, I did not know much about high pressure pasteurization because it’s fairly new in the juicing industry, and Juicer Heroes does not use high pressure pasteurization in their juicing process.

First, I am a very big proponent of raw, fresh-made vegetable and fruit juice. It is delicious and full of the vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and life-bringing enzymes that provide the sparks that the cells in our body require to function at a high level. We get this stuff from fresh, non-adulterated vegetables and fruits, preferably local vegetables and fruits, preferably local and organic. I recommend a glass daily, at least. We get good nutrients from a lot of other food options, but the veggies and fruits are nutritional “powerhouses.”

Traditional Versus HP Pasteurization

You may know that traditional pasteurization is the process of heating a product to a high temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be in it. It is widely used in the food industry. The problem is that it destroys nutrients and enzymes, which results in a nutritionally deficient product. This is fact.

Enter high pressure pasteurization. High Pressure Dynamics Inc., a company specializing in high pressure pasteurization states that the process utilizes “pressure which is equal from every direction. Foods are subjected to pressures up to 100,000 pounds per square inch, which destroys pathogenic bacteria and microorganisms by interrupting their cellular functions.” This sounds positive. Then they go on to state, “Many pressure-sensitive processes such as protein function, enzyme action, and cellular membrane function are impacted.” This doesn’t sound so great.

This really sparked my curiosity about high pressure pasteurization. So after several days and hours of research on the subject, I believe I understand the facts as they exist today.

Short Shelf Life for Raw Foods

It is important to understand that the nutrient content of foods changes with any processing. When you press fruits and vegetables to make juice, for example, the nutrients in the juice will live and be beneficial for only a short period of time before it spoils. Many foods have an extended shelf life because they are somehow altered or processed in a way that extends their “life” before they spoil. I know that we worry about bacteria, but most bacterial contamination is tied to preparation, transportation and storage issues of foods. That is why washing foods properly is so important.

Role of Enzymes

Enzymes are produced in your body’s digestive tract to aid in food digestion. There are also enzymes in foods that aid in the breakdown of the foods and absorption of nutrients. Dr. Edward Howell, MD, a pioneering food enzyme researcher, found differences in function between enzymes found in foods and those produced by the body. His research showed that the live food enzymes had integral roles in digestion and body functions, and he discovered that they play a role in slowing and reversing various chronic degenerative diseases. For this reason, he felt that food enzymes should be considered essential nutrients. I agree.

A concern with high pressure pasteurization is that the process alters or destroys the function of food enzymes. As a health care professional, this concerns me. Another enzyme expert, Howard Loomis, Jr, put it best when he wrote, “Plant enzymes are important because they are capable of digesting food before the body’s own digestive process begins. In other words, plant enzymes can enhance the digestion of food and the delivery of nutrients to the blood even if you have a compromised digestive system.”

Why Bother with HPP?

The pure and simple reason companies use high pressure pasteurization is to extend the shelf life of bottled products without using the nutrient-killing heat associated with the traditional pasteurization process. Fresh, raw produce has a fairly short shelf life measured in days, not weeks. It spoils because it contains enzymes, nutrients, vitamins, minerals and even beneficial flora.

For example, a raw apple kept on the counter is generally good for 2-4 weeks. After that it naturally breaks down and spoils due to the enzyme activity. But a bottle of apple juice that is high pressure pasteurized will last much longer, potentially for months. Why? Because some of the natural and healthful compounds and nutrients that were part of the raw apple were altered during the pasteurization process. They have to be, and this is why I believe high pressure pasteurized juice is not as nutritious as raw, fresh unpasteurized juice.

I did find one European study conducted at the Center for Food and Microbial Technology at the University of Leuven in Belgium that raises concerns about high pressure pasteurization. The study stated, “It is obvious that HP treatment influences the vitamin stability and the extraction yield of some bioactive compounds. HP treatment could result in vitamin degradation. HP processing could induce some (un)expected and (un) desired chemical reactions which (in) directly influence food quality and safety.”

A lot is still being learned about high pressure pasteurization. Based on the information available at the present time, I can only conclude that when it comes to nutrition and enzyme activity, raw, fresh and unpasteurized is the way to go if you are looking to receive the health benefits of juicing vegetables and fruits. This matches what I’ve been telling my patients and clients for years: Eat real food and know where it comes from.

Dr. Michael Boss, DCDr. Michael Boss, DC, has been a practicing chiropractor and wellness practitioner for more than 23 years. He is co-founder of Elevate Life, and he provides wellness, weight loss and healthy treatment programs that focus on functional health care, diabetes prevention and treatment, nutrition, acupuncture, exercise, hormone function and balance, chronic diseases, nutriceuticals and more. He is available for consultation at the Elevate Life Integrative Health Club. Call 210-490- 2223 or 210-264-2570 for an individual consultation, or to learn more visit www.elevatelifewellness.com.

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