The a2 Milk Company Limited – producer of the fastest growing dairy brand in Australia – is hoping to repeat its success by launching its a2 brand of milk in the US. The company sources its milk from heritage breed cows whose milk is devoid of the A1 beta-casein protein, a protein found in the casein portion of most conventional cows’ milk we drink today. Instead its milk contains only the A2 protein which some feel is more easily digested. A2 Milk maintains that individuals who are unable to digest the A1 protein and experience digestive upset after drinking milk, are not in fact lactose intolerant, as they could easily drink milk containing only the A2 protein. A2 Milk is therefore marketing its milk to people who have self-diagnosed themselves as lactose intolerant (which is much different than being allergic to milk).
The evidence for a2 Milk’s disease-preventing properties is far from conclusive. Keith Woodford Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University in New Zealand is the author of Devil in the Milk. In his book Woodford concludes that research has proven a link between consuming milk containing A1 protein and diseases such as heart disease and type 1 diabetes. The European Food Safety Authority however released a review in 2009 of the scientific literature examining possible health effects of milk containing A2 protein. It concluded that a cause and effect relationship has not been established.
Since then, a2 Milk has funded other animal studies which it claims offers further evidence that the A1 protein has an inflammatory effect. Although this research is interesting, one should be careful about accepting at face value any research, which is either funded by a company to promote its own business or obtained from animal models.
At this time, research on a2 milk is not sufficient to state unequivocally that its milk offers additional benefits than conventional milk. However, if you are suffering from GI discomfort, give it a try. The anecdotal evidence is interesting and A2 milk contains all the healthy nutrients of regular milk!