Nutrition Brief: A2 Milk

Milk allergies and intolerances are quite common, and usually lactose is to blame. However, there is research to support the idea that it may be a protein in cow’s milk, and not necessarily the naturally occurring sugar, that is causing your body to react negatively. Here’s what you need to know, summed up:

What is A2 Milk?

  • Beta-casein is a protein found in cow’s milk, and it makes up about half of its total protein.
  • There are many forms of beta-casein; the two major forms found in cow’s milk are A1 and A2 beta-casein.
  • Milk from Holstein cows contains about equal parts A1 and A2 beta-casein.
  • Milk from Guernsey and Jersey cows is higher in A2 beta-casein.
  • Human breast milk, and milk from goats, sheep, water buffalo, and cows of Asian origin have A2-like proteins.
  • A2 cow’s milk (free from the A1 protein) is sold in Australia, the US, and the UK for about twice the cost of traditional milk.

Health Benefits and Risks

  • BCM-7 is released from A1 but not A2 beta-casein during normal digestion.
  • BCM-7 has been shown to slow the movement of food through the digestive tract, allowing more time for fermentation and in turn the production of gases which may lead to symptoms of digestive distress (gas, bloating, abdominal pain, change in stool consistency).
  • BCM-7 has been shown to cause inflammation and trigger an immune response in the gut in animal studies – we don’t yet know for sure if it has the same effect in humans.
  • This inflammation prevents fluid absorption in the gut leading to softer stools (diarrhea).
  • The developing gut of kids may be especially vulnerable to the effects of A1 beta-casein.
  • A2 beta-casein has been shown to increase lactase production in the gut (the enzyme that breaks down lactose). Since a lack of lactase leads to lactose intolerance, it’s possible that A2 milk could be better tolerated by those who are lactose-intolerant.
  • A1 beta-casein consumption has been associated with heart disease and type 1 diabetes, however, more research is needed to confirm a cause-and-effect relationship.

What other nutrition topics do you have questions about? Want to get to the bottom of a trendy new diet, or decide whether you should be upping your intake or cutting out a certain food altogether? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to break down the science for you and get straight to the point with the information you need to make the best decisions for your health.

Information adapted from: Milk Proteins and Human Health: A1 versus A2 Beta-Casein. Presented by Dr. Joanna McMillan and Professor Karen Dwyer.

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