“A lot of people who drink A2 milk say they just feel better – what if more of us could feel better?”
You might have heard the above quote on a TV advertisement for A2 milk, a controversial product that has been on our supermarket shelves since 2003.
There is ongoing debate about whether A2 milk is better for us, and it is thought that A2 milk might reduce symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
What is A2 milk?
A2 milk production is the same as normal milk production, the difference is the type of cow, and the protein that they produce in their milk.
The main types of proteins in milk are called ‘caseins.’ There are 2 major types of caseins in milk. Beta-caseins are one type.
A1 and A2 are two types of beta caseins found in milk.
Many years ago, cows only produced the A2 protein in their milk. However, a perfectly natural mutation meant cows started producing A1 as well as A2. Because of this, most milk we buy today contains both the A1 and A2 proteins.
The A2 milk company tests the type of protein that a cow produces, so dairy farmers can prove that their cows only produce the A2 protein. This is the milk marketed by the A2 milk company.
Is A2 milk a healthier choice?
Marketing claims initially suggested that the A1 protein was detrimental to our health, linking A1 to diseases including diabetes and coronary heart disease. The A2 company even petitioned to put a warning on regular milk. These claims have since been disproven. There is no evidence to suggest that the A1 protein in regular milk is significantly harmful to our health.
Since then, the A2 campaign has focused on A1 being a cause of digestive issues, and symptoms often associated with IBS, such as bloating, wind and diarrhoea. There is no strong scientific evidence to confirm that A2 milk is easier to digest, but research is emerging, and some anecdotal evidence indicates it may help some people.
Because of the slight difference between the A1 and A2 proteins, digestion of A1 results in a peptide (pretty much a small protein) known as BCM-7. In vitro (test tube experiments) and animal studies have indicated that BCM-7 might alter gut function by slowing the bowel movement, and increasing inflammation.
Human research has shown that A1 results in a softer stool, going against what would usually be expected with a longer bowel movement. Recently, studies have also shown some difference in inflammatory markers between humans consuming A2 milk VS A1/A2 milk. However, we need a lot more human research to validate these claims.
For those who have no issues with milk, there is no evidence to suggest A1 has any detrimental effects, and that A2 is any better for you. Not to mention that regular A1/A2 milk is a whole lot cheaper.
A2 milk still contains lactose. It is thus not suitable for those who are clinically diagnosed as lactose intolerant. Additionally, it will not work for those with a cows milk allergy.
Many people avoid milk, but are not diagnosed as lactose intolerant. So if you feel that regular A1/A2 milk just doesn’t sit well with you, and A2 works for you – then that’s great!
A final note on dairy.
Whatever you choose to drink – don’t exclude dairy (or dairy substitutes) from your diet! Dairy is a fantastic source of protein and readily available calcium, essential for building strong bones. Evidence suggests it may even assist with weight loss!
Aim for 2.5-3 serves of dairy per day.
1 serve =
- 1 C milk
- 2 slices cheese
- 120g ricotta
- 200g yoghurt
By: Ellie Wiltshire
Image sourced from Pinterest.
- Barnett, M.P.G, McNabb, W.C, Roy, N.C, Woodford, K.B & Clarke, A.J 2014, Dietary A1 B-casein affects gastrointestinal transit time, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 activity, and inflammatory status relative to A2 B casein in Wistar rats
- Fuller, N 2016, Science or Snake Oil: is A2 milk better for you than regular cow’s milk?, The Conversation, viewed 1 December 2017, <https://theconversation.com/science-or-snake-oil-is-a2-milk-better-for-you-than-regular-cows-milk-62486>
- Ho, S, Woodford, K, Kukuljan, S, Pal, S 2014, Comparative effects of A1 versus A2 beta-casein on gastrointestinal measures: a blinded randomised cross-over pilot study, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 68, pp. 994-1000
- Jianqin, S, Leiming, X, Lu, X, Yelland, G, Ni, J, Clarke, A.J 2016, Effects of milk containing only A2 beta casein versus milk containing both A1 and A2 beta casein proteins on gastrointestinal physiology, symptoms of discomfort, and cognitive behaviour of people with self reported intolerance to traditional cows milk, Nutrition Journal, vol. 15, no. 35.
- Truswell, A.S 2005, The A2 milk case: a critical review, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 59, pp. 623-631