Milk containing the A2 protein (vs A1) is the solution for those with non-lactose related dairy intolerance. A2 protein is one of two forms of casein, the protein predominately found in milk. A2 milk comes from heritage breeds of cattle and what differentiates it is the single amino acid, glycine, which does not cause the gas, bloating, and gut problems experienced by those drinking A1 milk.
In this article you will learn:
- The difference between A1 and A2 milk proteins
- How A1 milk came to dominate modern dairy production
- Why A1 milk is a health hazard
- How to avoid A1 casein with new A2 milk options
A1 vs A2 Milk Proteins
In addition to sugar and fat, milk also contains several different types of protein.
The muscle-building protein whey is familiar to many people, but the predominant type of protein found in milk is actually the lesser-known casein protein.
Typically marketed to bodybuilders as a slow-digesting, “time released” protein source, casein actually comes in two forms, “A1” and “A2”.
These two forms differ by just a single amino acid, so if you were to look at both molecules under a high powered microscope, you would see that where A1 has a histidine, A2 has a proline.
This difference may be small on a molecular level, but it has big implications for your health.
To make matters worse, the problematic casein protein is everywhere.
Why A1 Milk Protein Dominates the Dairy Industry
A2 casein is commonly found in heritage breeds of cattle such as the Guernseys and Jerseys, as well as in human breastmilk, but most milk sold on supermarket shelves today has the A1 casein protein.
So how did this come to be?
Hundreds of years ago in Europe, a type of dairy cow known as the Holstein was developed, and while it’s milk was not the best in terms of quality, it’s production was prodigious.
With the advent of industrialized food production, the Holstein became the breed of choice for the new dairy industry that was being dominated by large corporations.
In other words, the Holstein was the darling of the milk industry, but its milk contained a dark secret that has only recently been discovered.
The Health Hazards of A1 Milk
Given that A1 casein is found in nearly all commercial dairy products, including milk, yogurt, ice cream, and cheese, it’s important to know what this protein does when it gets into the body.
When the A1 casein molecule is digested, a bio-active opioid peptide called beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) is formed.
Classified as a “casomorphin”, BCM-7 is an opiate-like molecule that has the ability to bind to opiate receptors throughout the body.
In the gut, BCM-7 decreases gut motility, which allows food to linger in the digestive tract, causing bloating, gas, and constipation.
High levels of gut BCM-7 have also been associated with changes to the gut microbiome and increases in digestive tract inflammation.
Opioid receptors are not exclusive to the gut, however, so if BCM-7 is absorbed into the bloodstream, it can impact far-reaching tissues like the brain.
Studies suggest that BCM-7 binding on neural tissue can lead to problems in information processing, detoxification (methylation), increased oxidative stress, and increased pro-inflammatory markers.
Adults with fully formed and developed digestive systems tend to experience the effects of BCM-7 “locally”, that is to say in the gut itself. Children, however, have a more porous digestive tract, which allows higher levels of BCM-7 to be absorbed into the blood, leading them to experience the neurological effects more strongly.
While a link hasn’t been conclusively proven, exposure to high levels of A1 casein, and therefore BCM-7, has even been associated with the development of autism.
A2 Milk: The Better Dairy Alternative
Due to growing awareness and increased consumer demand, A2 milk options are finally returning to store shelves.
Small-scale milk producers have discovered that they can turn a profit by using A2 heritage breeds like the Jersey and Guernsey, who’s milk, although not as great in quantity as the Holstein, is of far greater quality and better for making artisan cheeses and other dairy products.
There is even a brand of milk sold specifically as “A2” by a New Zealand based company called The A2 Milk Company.
Unconventional non-cow alternatives also exist in the form of goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and even camel’s milk.
Historical precedent and scientific evidence suggest that A2 form of casein is the healthier option for humans, while the relatively new, and often industrially produced, A1 variety is a potential risk factor in dairy-related GI distress and even neurological issues.
If you have been avoiding milk products due to a fear of lactose, you may find relief, and rediscover the joys of dairy, by switching to A2.
Go Beyond with Natural Force
Here at Natural Force, we support A2 dairy farmers by sourcing the milk for our Organic Whey Protein exclusively from grass-fed Jersey cows.
They live in sunny California, are treated humanely, are not given any growth hormones or antibiotics, and graze on grass all year long.
This is a difference that can be tasted when you mix it into your favorite smoothie or shake and is that can be felt immediately when it digests smoothly.
Learn more about the Natural Force Organic Whey difference.
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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted September 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.