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Farmers in Russia are milking moose to cure ulcers, even though milk makes them worse

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Ryan Hagerty / USFWS

Workers on a government-owned farm in Russia are milking moose because locals believe their milk cures peptic ulcers, reports Modern Farmer. What Modern Farmer didn't note, however, is that doctors regularly discourage people with ulcers from drinking cow's milk because it actually makes ulcers worse.

The moose at Sumarokovo Moose Farm in Kostroma Oblast roam freely most of the year, but when the calving season comes around, farm workers lure them into pens using buckets of oats. There, the female moose give birth and about a week later, workers begin harvesting their milk.

The animals produce as much as 1.5 gallons of salty, acidic milk each day. Once collected, the milk is ingested by patients at the Ivan Susanin Sanatorium — an alternative therapy facility for people with gastrointestinal ailments — to treat a plethora of health problems, including peptic ulcers.

Cow's milk makes ulcers worse

Moose milk, reports Modern Farmeris high in essential amino acids and lypozyme, an enzyme that kills ulcer-causing bacteria. This might be why the Russian farmers believe that it helps cure ulcers. Unfortunately, few studies have been done on this mammal's milk, let alone its medicinal properties, so the claim is hard to verify. But given what we know about cow's milk and ulcers, it's possible that what they are mistaking for "a cure" is actually just the temporary relief that is afforded by coating the stomach lining with milk. Once that effect wears off, cow's milk actually prompts the stomach to produce even more acid than it normally does. This makes ulcers more painful, and often makes them worse.

The United Nations last year spoke out in favor of efforts to exploit alternative sources of milk — sources such as camels, moose, and deer — following a report in which economists estimated that global milk consumption was likely to increase by 25 percent by 2025. But the Russian farm isn't producing nearly enough milk to turn this endeavor into a commercially viable business. Instead, the people who work on the farm told Modern Farmer that they are working on conservation and educating the public — in addition to continuing their efforts to ensure that the farm is "the most stable moose-milk provider for medication in Russia."