New product promises dairy without consequences

Let’s file this one under “you learn something new every day.” And yes, by “you” I also mean me.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I do, in fact, continue to learn new things about the world of health on a regular basis. Whether it’s from scanning the headlines for this newsletter, or talking to my patients whom I adore… every single day I come across something I didn’t know about before.

When it happens, I’m always excited to share it. And today is no exception…

A true dairy “alternative”?

I just came across an article about something called A2 milk, which you may soon be seeing in a dairy case near you.

Now, if this is something you’ve already heard about, then forgive me. Apparently, A2 milk has been available in New Zealand for two decades now, so it’s certainly possible that it’s already on your radar.

But it wasn’t on mine — though needless to say, it’s got my attention now.

Especially considering A2 milk isn’t being positioned as the next non-dairy fad milk, like almond or soy. In fact, A2 milk isn’t non-dairy at all. It’s actual milk, from actual cows…with one big difference.

Most milk protein is comprised of beta-casein, which makes up a third of the total protein content found in milk. But the characteristics of this particular milk protein began to change around 8,000 years ago, due to one amino acid mutation in particular.

Milk containing the mutated beta-casein is called “A1 milk.” The older variant of beta-casein is called “A2 milk.” Due to breeding and other factors, cows producing A1 milk became the norm in most of the Western world. (Holstein, Jersey, and Guernsey cattle are of the few breeds that still carry A2 beta-casein — and sometimes both A1 and A2.)

And here’s why this matters: When digesting A1 milk, beta-casein can cause the release of a substance called beta-casomorphin (BCM-7) in the small intestine. BCM-7 is associated with GI problems, such as inflammation, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.

In other words, all the hallmark symptoms of dairy intolerance.

When it comes to milk, 2 may be better than 1

It’s no secret that dairy poses a problem for a lot of people. And research has linked A1 milk with a higher risk of gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, heart disease, and potentially autism and schizophrenia. Unfortunately, most of this data comes from animal studies.

But that doesn’t mean the results can’t translate to humans.

Of course, many remain unconvinced. Though it’s worth noting that most of the naysaying is coming from “inside the house.”

The milk industry is producing the bulk of these detractors (no surprise there). One of the most vocal was even identified as a consultant for a New Zealand dairy company, with an obvious vested interest in keeping “conventional milk” palatable to the public.

This debate could (and probably will) rage on indefinitely. And when it comes to the so-called value of “A2 milk,” I’m of the opinion that the data’s really just not there yet.

But I’m also of the opinion that it doesn’t really matter. My time both in the industry and as a physician has taught me something: Consumers — not science — are the true judges of whether a product works.

In the meantime, the U.S. milk market hasn’t fully embraced A2 milk just yet — and a lot of that is based on backlash from the dairy community, citing this as just another “marketing ploy.” And only time can research will tell, really.

Nonetheless, if you think A2 dairy could be a good alternative for you, it’s most commonly found in cheese made with goat or sheep milk. Oftentimes, the label will indicate if it’s a source of A2. Or you can simply look at the cheese’s ingredients — if it’s made with raw or unpasteurized milk (which in the U.S. must be aged for at least 60 days), it’s A2.

That said, I have my own feelings about milk in general and how it can sabotage your weight loss efforts, as I reported in the November 2012 issue of my monthly Logical Health Alternatives newsletter (“Not all dairy is diet-friendly”). Subscribers to my newsletter gain access to my entire archive. Not a subscriber? No worries. Click here to get started today.