A2 Milk: Why you should know more about it?

You might have heard about A2 milk and the claims that it is better than the regular milk (A1 milk) commonly available in the market. Consumer perceives such milk as better option than regular milk. Even A2 ghee too is perceived as healthier. But, what’s the reality? Here’s a fact-check read on A2 milk.

Richa Pande

Take the example of A2 ghee; it is costlier. However, is it healthier too? Interestingly, any type of ghee made either from A2 or A1 milk are just fats. Any ghee does not contain protein, and it is mainly a protein BCM-7 present in regular milk that is under scrutiny for having some adverse health impacts. So, it is essential to be mindful when you are buying A2 milk products.

Behind the A2 milk controversy

The A2 milk controversy has its roots in the milk revolution which was launched in the 1970s in India. The milk revolution, also known as ‘operation flood’ and ‘white revolution’, was an Indian food security program. It was a move to boost the milk production to meet the nutritional requirements of the nation. The program was a huge success and is still considered to be one of the most accomplished food security programs in India. The program emphasized on the import of cattle breeds for higher yield. This eventually led to the side-lining of the Indian breeds.

Traditionally, the cows in the African and Asian continents produced A2 milk. But the switch from A2 to A1 cows to boost the production let to the milk consumption switch in India. However, on the other hand, many developed and developing nations including China, Australia, USA & UK have imported the Indian and African breeds and are switching to A2 milk consumption.

Recently, it has been found that the consumption of A1 milk (now commonly consumed in India) could be linked with neurological disorders heart diseases, diabetes. Also, some individuals cannot digest this type of milk and its regular intake can lead to bloating and irritable bowel syndrome. This is harmful and can lead to many intestinal disorders. On the other hand, A2 milk does not have beta-casein 1 and thus it’s consumption does not result in the disorders which can be caused by the consumption of A1 milk.

A2 Milk

How is the composition of A1 milk different from A2 milk?

Let us begin by understanding that milk has beta casein protein in it. There are two types of variations of this protein i.e. A1 beta-casein and A2 beta-casein. The milk nomenclature is as per beta casein variant present in the milk. The difference is because of the change in the position of an amino acid. The A1 variant has histidine while A2 casein has proline.

Potential harmful impacts of consuming A1 milk 

  • Consumption of BCM-7 has been interlinked with causing type 1 diabetes, heart diseases infant death, autism, and digestive problems
  • Some research papers also interlink its consumption with adverse impacts on immune system  

Note that BCM-7’s absorption in its intact form into our bloodstream is not understood well. Many research studies couldn’t detect BCM-7 in the blood of healthy adults who drink cow’s milk, but some studies indicate that BCM-7 can be present in the bloodstream of infants who consumed cow milk. This predisposes the infants to the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in infants

The other side of the story

Although there are many studies which link consumption of A1 milk with some diseases, some experts argue that many Europeans and Americans have been consuming it for generations and it is safe for consumption. A systematic review by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) declares that no cause-and-effect relationship can be established between consumption of BCM- 7 (present in A1 milk) and the occurrence of acclaimed diseases. It is important to note that the conclusions of a systematic review are more reliable than a single study. The same article also quotes a NBAGR [ National Bureau of Genetic Resources] paper that, there are very few cattle with the A1 genes in India which are used for breeding and milking. As per this paper, the A1 milk and A2 milk are mixed when they are procured from small farmers. Even if the claims related to the A1 milk are true, the impact of A1 milk after being mixed with A2 milk is subdued and can cause little harm to human health.

Prices of the A2 milk products in India

   Cost Per Litre
A1 Milk ₹ 56- 90 per litre
A2 Milk ₹75- 110 per litre
A1 Ghee ₹ 450- 650 per litre
A2 Ghee ₹ 1500- 2300 per litre

How to assess if you are intolerant to A1 milk?  

As mentioned before, A1 milk can not only cause comorbidities like diabetes, heart diseases etc but can also impact your gut health. You can follow these steps to understand whether you are intolerant to it:

  • Carefully observe the changes you experience after consuming milk and milk products that you consume usually. Do you feel bloated? Does it ache? Does milk impact your motion? If yes you could be either intolerant to the lactose or beta-caesin1. If you are lactose intolerant, you can consume curd instead of milk as fermentation reduces the lactose levels in the milk.
  • You can buy lactose free milk from the market to check if the problem is because of the A1beta-casein or lactose in the milk. If the intolerance persists even after consuming the lactose free milk, it could be because of the A1 beta-casein. As many Indians rely on dairy products for protein intake, milk cannot be eliminated from the diet. These consumer tips might help someone who is intolerant to beta-casein1 in milk-
  • Switch to pasteurized A2 milk if it is available in your locality
  • Procure milk from local vendors who raise ‘desi cattle.’ However, please note that food safety can be compromised in procuring milk from local vendors.
  • You can buy soymilk as an alternative to the milk products.

FSSAI regulation on A1 and A2 Milk 

  • Standards of milk as specified in Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 do not mention or recognise any differentiation of milk based on A1 and A2 types.
  • Scientific panels on milk and milk products have discussed the regarding adverse/beneficial effects of A1 and A2 types of milk. They couldn’t arrive at a conclusion due to lack of clinical data and risk assessment.
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