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Just Ask Jase: Dairy Dilemma – The Sequel

Hi Jason,
After reading your previous article on which is better for health between full cream and reduced fat, it got me wondering about whether A2 cow milks are worth the investment for better health? Is it worth the extra money?
– Spoiled for Choice

Hi everyone, indeed this is another dairy dilemma and a great question!
A2 milk has exploded on to the marketplace with a heavy “health-centred” promotional campaign that is designed to have you believe that this type of milk is far superior to regular milks that contain both A1 and A2 proteins within them. All for double the price of a regular carton of milk, it really is worth looking a little closer to see where and how this notion has arisen from.

So let me give you some background on A1 and A2 in cow’s milk. And rest assured that this assessment of the current nutrition is based on the latest scientific evidence (which as an accredited sports dietitian I am bound by a code of ethics where I can only recommend to you what is backed by solid and reputable evidence). Everyone please take note of that fact, as no other nutrition service is bound to that code of ethics for practice, the very thing that sets dietitians apart from nutritionists, herbalists, naturopath’s and so on.

Cow’s milk contains two types of proteins, whey proteins and casein proteins. Here we are focusing on the casein proteins as both A1 and A2 are types of casein proteins. So what is the difference between the A1 and A2? Not that much to be honest, just one little amino acid in the beta caseins themselves but this has been enough to spark two areas of interest within research studies which I will detail now:

  1. The first studies that were very much touting the negative health properties of the A1 protein within cow’s milk used a method of injecting animals with both proteins and observing the subsequent effects. What was seen was a correlation between elevated risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease, autism and schizophrenia development and the consumption of the A1 protein itself. Now the correlation was positive, however not strong enough to reflect a definitive relationship.
    Check out this prominent study.Be mindful of these results in the way that the studies were using animal subjects, and were also administering these proteins via injection (not oral) which alongside the lack of definitive correlation weaken the findings.
  2. Since the first studies were not strong enough to guide a conclusive answer to the A1 and A2 saga, further studies were carried out (most notably at Curtin University)

Essentially what the findings indicated (although via a very weak correlation) was that the A1 protein (what is not seen in the A2 milks) were linked to some cases of gastrointestinal distress (such as altered stool consistency and “upset stomachs”). The mechanisms behind this have been stated to be “inflammatory” in nature. However when you look at the mechanisms within this study and the findings they are fraught with inconsistencies, something that Dr Rosemary Stanton details so very well in her summation of the A2 milk saga.
Take home messages:

  •  We need far more well designed and large sized population studies to determine the potential for the A1 beta casein protein to be a concern to human health.
  • Current findings are nowhere near strong enough to warrant that we should all be using A2 milks.
  • Unless you have a disposable income and can pay double the price for your milk, at this stage there is no reason to warrant using A2 milk as far as your health is concerned.

It really is a case of getting your nutrition advice from the right people (accredited practising dietitian or accredited sports dietitian) to sort the fact from the fiction and to know exactly where nutrition science is at in regards to areas such as this! To get the right information for you, be sure to contact myself and my team at Enliven Nutrition today and get the right information!


— Jase


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Jason is the owner, resident sports dietitian and strength and conditioning coach at Enliven Nutrition. He specialises in sports performance, nutrition, weight management and strength conditioning training, and established Enliven Nutrition with the vision of providing nutrition and training programs that achieve any health or performance goal.




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