There have been a few recent articles and blog posts on A2 milk. In fact, there was a recent research study, conducted in China on A2 milk, which is championing the product as a lower inflammatory alternative to “normal” milk. But what is all the craze about?
Clever Marketing Ploy?
As far as marketing ploy, it certainly is clever, since only one company is producing A2 milk, namely, the “A2 milk company.” However, like many things, there has to be a first person (company) to try it, and there certainly is reason behind novelty.
Do You Have a Milk Allergy?
Milk contains 2 beta-casein proteins, A1 and A2. These are the proteins that you are likely reacting to if you have a milk allergy. Now, that is if you have an allergy to milk. If you are lactose intolerant, meaning that your small intestine lacks or is deficient in the enzyme needed to break down lactose (milk sugar), then the protein shouldn’t have anything to do with why you have diarrhea, bloating, and an generally crummy time when you indulge in that bowl of ice cream.
A1 Protein’s B(u)yproduct
The A1 protein has a byproduct, beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) that is thought to be inflammatory to the human digestive system. The A2 protein does not get broken down into this byproduct. So, how do you get milk with only the A2 protein? Well, by milking A2 cows of course.
Different Breeds of Cows Actually Code Differently
This isn’t a genetically modified version of a dairy cow, kept in a laboratory somewhere in New Zealand. Different breeds of cows actually code differently for these proteins already. The breeds which supply most of the milk for Europe (except France) and the United States are predominantly A1 producers – Holsteins and Ayrshires. In Africa and India the cows produce predominantly A2 milk – Guernsey and Jersey breeds. All the breeds produce both proteins, however the ratio is very different. This is the rationale behind the A2 milk companies claims to have only A2 containing milk (which is not entirely true, but only contains very little A1 protein).
Research Behind A2 Milk Provides Insight into Lactose Intolerance
The recent research study from China did find that individuals who normally experience abdominal discomfort and GI symptoms after consuming milk, had less symptoms drinking A2 milk. They also found that individuals who were lactose intolerant experienced less discomfort as well, a finding that suggests a slightly different perspective on what may be going on with lactose intolerance.
For individuals who may have grown up drinking milk from these other breeds, A2 milk may actually taste more like what they are used to as well. The verdict may not be totally in as to whether A2 milk should be advocated as an alternative to those who have a milk allergy, however, it may be worth a try.
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Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.