A2 milk is gaining immense popularity in India as it is marketed to be superior to A1 milk. Sold at almost twice the price of regular milk, does A2 milk have a substantial benefit over A1 milk? Or is it just another marketing tactic? Let us explore…
What is A2 Milk?
Beta casein is the second largest component of caseins. Over a thousand years of selective breeding and mutation, the variants of beta-casein have evolved. It is said that initially, all domesticated cows and buffaloes produced milk with A2 beta-casein. Due to natural genetic mutation, a variant of the A2 protein started appearing and it is called A1.
If you look at the protein chain showing the amino acid composition of A1 and A2 milk, you will notice that it is just the amino acid at the 67th position that is different. In A2 milk, it is proline; and in A1 milk, it is Histidine. Both are essential amino acids that have different functions in the human body.
Controversies Related To A2 and A1 Milk
Gastrointestinal hydrolysis of A1 beta-casein leads to the creation of beta-casomorphin 7 (BCM7). It is found that BCM-7 has a mild sedative effect and can cause stomach discomfort in certain people.
But, in the book, ” Devil In Milk” released in 2007, author K.B. Woodford claims that BCM7 in A1 milk acts like morphine and that it can cause digestive, immune, and brain development changes and is also associated with the incidence of type 1 diabetes, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases and even autism and schizophrenia.
Following this, the European Food Safety Authority decided to conduct scientific research on the safety of A1 milk. This was a special cause of concern for the EU as dairy is their second largest agricultural sector.
At the helm of the dispute were two of the largest New Zealand-based dairy companies- a cooperative firm, Fonterra which mainly sells A1 milk, and A2 corporation which sells A2 milk. Allegedly, A2 corporation sponsored various studies on the hazards of A1 milk. Hence, there was a need for an independent review of the matter.
Finally, in 2009, the EFSA review found no cause-and-effect relationship between BCM7 and diseases like type 1 diabetes, autism, and other cardiovascular diseases. It further said that different types of cow’s milk are safe to drink and that no one type is safer than the other. However, the paper did say that BCM-7 can act as an opioid and can have “different effects in the lumen and intestinal mucosa, such as regulatory effects on gastrointestinal motility and on gastric and pancreatic secretions.” This implies that for a lot of people, A2 milk could be easier on your stomach compared to A1 milk.
Was EFSA’s review an attempt to preserve the EU’s billion-dollar dairy industry which predominantly produces A1 milk? Are the benefits claimed by A2 milk a part of the propaganda by the A2 corporation? The answers are still indecisive as large-scale, independent research on A2 vs A1 milk is yet to be carried out by the scientific community.
A2 Milk In India
Owing to the growing popularity in India, leading dairy companies have started offering A2 milk. Some of the known brands selling A2 milk are Amul, Akshayakalpa, Svasth Life, Whyte Farms, Desigo etc.
As mentioned earlier, A2 is said to be the original beta-casein in milk. A1 appeared later as a result of natural genetic mutations. Out of the Indian breeds, Badri is specifically superior as its milk contains 90% A2 protein. It also contains 4.8% fat compared to 3.6% in most other breeds.
A study by p. Chithra of Krishi Vigyan Kendra. Tiruppur University says that Red Sindhi, Sahiwal,
Tharparkar, Gir, and Rathi are Indian breeds with 100% A2 gene, while breeds used for farming have 94% A2 gene and exotic breeds like HF and Jersey have 60% A2 gene. But, the fact remains that due to cross-breeding to increase yield, milk produced by cows in various dairy farms is not pure A2.
FSSAI does not have a clear set of standards to differentiate between A1 and A2 milk, which is much needed considering A2 milk costs twice regular milk. TN Veterinary and Animal Science University certify A1 and A2 milk on the basis of which one is dominant over the other. Using this parameter, even HF and Jersey milk could be certified as A2 !!!
Worse yet is that brands market ghee as A2 even though it is 99.7% fat with no significant protein content. Hence, the change in the amino acid structure of A2 and A1 milk doesn’t affect the quality of ghee at all. It is true that ghee made from the milk of grass-fed desi cows is better. But, marketing it as A2 ghee is a misnomer.
Benefits of A2 Milk
Easy On Your Stomach
As mentioned earlier, it is proven that A2 milk is easier on your stomach and digestion compared to A1 milk. Many people find their stomachs upset after drinking A1 milk, which never happens when you drink A2 milk or its products. Otherwise, the benefits of A2 milk are the same as A1 milk, which are-
Is A Good Source of Protein
100 gm of milk contains 3.3 gms of protein. Typically, if a person drinks a cup ( 240 ml) of milk a day, it amounts to about 8 gm of protein. Milk protein quality is also high as it contains all 9 essential amino acids.
Milk Proteins Have Anti-Carcinogenic Properties
Research has found that certain milk proteins have anti-carcinogenic properties. Whey protein inhibits the growth of chemically induced tumors. α-Lactalbumin has an antiproliferative action on colon adenocarcinoma cell lines, Lactoferrin too has antiproliferative, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities, casein protects against colon cancer and has an antimutagenic effect in the small intestine.
Improves Immune Response
Whey and casein proteins are found to improve immune response in various studies. Whey improves antibody response to antigens, while Lactoferrin improves delayed-type hypersensitivity responses to a range of antigens. It also increases the production of immunoglobulins.
Improves Bone Health
Studies have found that low dairy intake can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures, especially in older women. 100 gm of milk contains around 125 mg of Calcium. A glass of milk ( 240 ml) can contribute around 40% of the daily Calcium requirement, helping improve bone health.
Prevents Weight Gain
Milk, being a source of high-quality protein can help prevent weight gain. Protein increases satiety and thus prevents over-eating. Free-grazing, grass-fed cow milk has higher levels of CLA ( Conjugated Linoleic Acid) which breaks down fat deposits and also improves immune function.
The More Important Parameter To Consider
To conclude, considering the negligible difference in the benefits of A2 vs A1 milk, it may not necessarily be worth spending a lot on it. But, it is definitely important to look at other aspects like purity, proper preservation, and whether the cows are treated humanely on the farms. Cows fed on grass and allowed to roam about freely produce milk of higher quality with significantly higher concentrations of fat, protein, true protein, and casein. So, opting for organic milk that is free of hormones and antibiotics could be more beneficial rather than obsessing over A2 vs A1 conundrum!