The debate about the significance and comparison of the 2 specific types of cow’s milk has been relevant for a few years now. These two categories of cow’s milk are each titled based on the main protein ingredient of A1 beta-casein & A2 beta-casein. This term refers to 2 variants of protein molecules, which apparently play a big role in each person’s ability to digest dairy. Beta-Casein is believed to be a significant element in affecting the human gastro-intestinal system, essentially a prime influence on lactose tolerance.
There are still some major unknown elements, believe it or not, when it comes to the consumption of cow’s milk, and how much of the world’s population is actually lactose intolerant. But, here are some things I DO know:
- milk is the staple in diets of almost all infantile animals in this world. And humans, of course, are no different
- there are many humans that are intolerant to dairy products
- What some of us geeks are also certain of is the presence of enzymes that convert and break down certain nutrients to make them digestible in our intestines. Maltase Enzymes break down simple carbs in the form of Maltose, usually found in cereals or grains. Sucrase enzymes break down sucrose simple sugars mostly found in refined white sugar, and Lactose is broken down by, you may have guessed it, Lactase.
- It’s also well stated that generally, the lactase enzyme can often become sparse in the adult’s Small Intestine, which could explain why approximately 50 million Americans are currently lactose intolerant.
- The lactase enzyme is developed during, and very prevalent in infants, especially those who are able to be breast fed, as human breast milk contains both lactose & lactase enzymes. So, we get well stocked with these digestive enzymes at a very young age, but it’s believed they get depleted significantly as we get older.
Epidemiological tests began in the early 1990’s on Beta-Casein proteins to determine several variants of this molecule. The most common variants that were found were eventually termed A1 & A2®. Scientists eventually pegged the mutation of these enzymes and Amino Acids to Holstein cattle that were taken to new land in northern Europe about 5,000 – 10,000 years ago. Through the breeding process, this morphed variant was created. Fast forward to today, African and Asian cattle purely produce A2® based milk, while A1 is more prominently produced by cattle in the U.S., most of Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
I only first learned about these 2 strains of milk protein about 3 years ago when taking a course on Ayurveda. Needless to say, the Ayurvedic belief, lifestyle and historic relevance and tradition is vast and very interesting. Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing by Dr. Vasant Lad gives a good introduction to some of the details of Ayurvedic way of life. Recent Ayurvedic beliefs state that A2 Milk® can provide many benefits to the human body, including strengthening muscles, promoting breast milk in women, and increases intelligence. One should understand that all kinds of milk is considered very nourishing and beneficial by Ayurvedic standards. Cows are loved and are in a sense idolized by many in the Ayurvedic tradition particularly in India. However, farmers and consumers in India have almost strictly been exposed to cows that produce solely the A2® Beta-Casein gene in their milk. In fact, the use of A1 type cows their have only been present in a small percentage as of the last 40-50 years.
Now, given the online evidence that is easy to find, there is no denying that numerous variants of protein molecules in cow’s milk exists. Where it starts to get debatable is the health benefits that both strains provide to human beings. There are studies that show that the A2® variant, because of its amino acids and nutrients, is a healthier option for people whom are Lactose Intolerant. If you want to get a little geekier, the A2® variant contains the amino acid Proline, which somehow prevents the beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM7) opioid protein from being absorbed in the body. BCM7 is believed to be the agent that causes indigestion in the GI tract. There are links to a couple studies to check out for yourself, down below.
There are also articles and studies that state almost the complete opposite. In an article found here , which is titled “Decoding the Truth and Myths About A1 and A2 Milk Types” focuses more on the affects of A1 dairy on developing cancer, multiple sclerosis and even it’s effects on autism. This article also goes on to say that the type of cows that could produce harmful dairy only exists in 1% of the cattle in India, which also means that this article purely only focuses on cattle and the minimal effects it has on humans that live in India, so the sample size isn’t exactly world-wide. But, to the credit of the people that work for the a2 Milk Company, they don’t state that their product is beneficial for improving any of those dysfunctions, nor do they state in any publications that I’ve found, that A1 could worsen any of those similar ailments.
Another article titled ‘A2 Milk Facts’ states much of the A2 beta-casein results and benefits are sourced by the A2 milk company itself, and that the majority of tests that portray any effective results, came from animals and rodents specifically. This, however seems to be a factual statement. There are also some other good points, where this article references a book titled “Devil In The Milk” by Keith Woodward, which I haven’t read yet, but apparently makes a good case talking about how certain lobbying companies and individuals that have invested interest in either side of the argument may influence how food information is publicized. If you notice, all the studies I give below, were FUNDED by the A2 milk company, and the article I linked above in this paragraph, was posted on the California Dairy Research Foundation, which, if you look further on that website on the About Us page, is comprised almost completely of California-based dairy farmers, which are most likely, farmers of A1 cattle.
I think this is where I have to stop the back and forth, because looking at both sides of the debate, both seemed to be a little biased in their results or even methods of testing. Admittedly, when I first learned about these two variants of milk protein, I got excited and very interested in the information. At the time,I looked at a couple articles online, and I think 1 online study, and kind of developed a quick summation of my own. And, admittedly, at the beginning of writing this blog, I thought I would find a lot of evidence to support the theory that A2® milk is healthier for humans. I did find a fair amount of information, but they either referenced each other in their findings, or were conflicted in their funding or had biased opinions.
Now, as I’ve mentioned before, there is substantial evidence to support that there are in fact 2 major strains of protein molecules that are provided by nearly all bovine in the world, and that it is known that each of these strains should have differing effects on digestive systems on a molecular level. There’s just not enough substantial evidence to prove it, YET. All I would suggest at this time, is if you know you are lactose intolerant, and you would like to consume dairy for it’s protein and nutrient supply, talk to a nutritionist such as myself or dietitian first, to discuss the details of how to properly re-introduce dairy into your eating regimen. A2® milk is becoming more widely available in major Canadian grocery stores such as Sobeys, Safeway and Co-op, and is most likely available in some health foods stores too. But always approach allergenic foods with caution, because allergies can become extreme, and dairy particularly, can affect digestion considerably, and dysfunction in the GI tract can have serious affects on your overall health.
This isn’t meant to slander the A2 Milk Company by any means. If it is true that this strain of milk is better for our systems, especially for those that are lactose intolerant, that’s great! I am interested in reading the Keith Woodward book though, as I’ve read reviews of it in online articles, but I would like to read it myself, and develop my own opinion. It would be interesting to see what kind of evidence is stated that supports the idea that A1 dairy milk could be a cause for some cases of Type-1 Diabetes. If any of you have read that book, please do send me an email or contact me on social media and let me know what you thought! Feel free to contact me by any means listed at the bottom of the page, if you have any questions or concerns. Stay safe, and continue loving food!
The term A2® is a registered trademark by The A2 Milk Company