Ever heard of A2 milk? Those of you in the allergy and dairy intolerant community may well have come across it. It is a new type of milk created in New Zealand where the A1 milk protein has been bred out of the milk to make it safer for some people to drink and easier to digest.
That’s the general gist. There is a whole lot of science behind this milk; why, how and what it is. I’m still slightly baffled but then that’s nothing new hey? Visit the a2 milk website to find out more.
I have been approached by a2 milk to blog about the product and interview their scientists but since I have a dairy allergy which causes me anaphylaxis this product isn’t suitable for me. I would rather only feature products on here that will help you guys and this a2 milk is probably not one of them.
Here is a picture from an invitation to their latest PR event where someone famous would be there and some scientists to explain the science behind this amazing new innovative milk.
A2 milk confuses and worries me
So why am I blogging about this milk?
I think it’s the confusing messaging that worries me.
What if someone who hasn’t yet managed to get allergy tests done and suspects they have a dairy allergy tries this milk?
If I’m slightly nonplussed I’m sure others who have not yet delved into the world of dairy allergy and the milk ladder will also find it somewhat bemusing.
This is what some of their blurb says:
a2 Milk™ is a cows’ milk for people with an intolerance to a protein called A1 beta casein, which is in regular cows’ milk. a2 Milk™ doesn’t contain A1 beta casein. Some people believe themselves to be lactose intolerant when it’s actually A1 beta casein that they are reacting to. Scroll down to see our flowchart which is designed to help you distinguish between the conditions.
OK so where do I start…
- a2 milk is cows milk for people with an intolerance to a protein… – First of all, it was always my understanding that an allergic reaction occurred when the body identified protein in a food as a danger and that an intolerance was when sugars in a certain food couldn’t be digested properly. So is this milk suitable for those with a lactose intolerance if it’s just the protein that’s been removed and not the sugars? If you have a lactose intolerance you lack the enzyme lactase which is needed to digest lactose. How on earth does anyone know which bit of the milk they react to? Do a2 offer a test? Do the people who buy this milk get tested before buying it? If you’re crazy enough to experiment be very careful. I wouldn’t recommend it.
- What is A1 beta casein? – apparently it’s a new mutated type of protein in cow’s milk which some people may or may not be reacting to. Sounds too vague for me and just such a confusing concept. People may be reacting to any of the many proteins in cow’s milk, of which are are more than juts 2. Whilst A1 may be the most common one to cause an allergy it’s not the only one.
- People who ‘believe’ themselves to lactose intolerant – Believe themselves to be? Lots of people really are, the don’t just believe they are. Then there are loads more people who have not done an elimination diet to ascertain whether they are truly intolerant. Perhaps they ‘believe’ themselves to be intolerant? The wording just gets me a little on edge. But we’ll move on. If this products is marketed to lactose intolerant people it would have little or no beneficial effect and would possibly make them ill in the trying. Is this wise? If however you suspect lactose intolerance but in fact have a problem with the a1 protein then you’ll be fine! How would you you know without trying it?
- What is in the milk? – it’s still just milk with one type of protein removed.
The only real way to diagnose a lactose intolerance is to do an elimination diet. Speak to your doctor to find out how to go about this, there is a science behind what to cut out, how to do it and which kinds of dairy to reintroduce and in which order.
I cannot fathom what the benefits of this milk are.
It’s not suitable for those with a cow’s milk allergy
It’s probably not suitable for people who are lactose intolerant as it still contains lactose
But if you just ‘believe’ you’re lactose intolerant then this might be for you? I’d still be wary.
But seriously fit hunky men pour it down themselves and Dannii Minogue loves it so who am I argue?
Be warned though, this is just milk. It contains milk protein and lactose so could very well make those with a milk allergy and lactose intolerance ill. Treat it like you would any other milk and stick to the completely safe and not baffling rice, oat, coconut, hemp, flax and other plant milks.
If you can drink normal milk then you might love it. You might feel much healthier and have less tummy trouble. Who knows. It costs about £1 in Waitrose if you fancy a punt.
I’m not the only one who is concerned. Here are some blogs from others:
For more on the science behind why it may or may not work, read “a2 milk, what’s all the fuss about?“
Dairy free Baby and me blogged about this, “Is A2 milk suitable for someone with a milk allergy or milk intolerance?”
On the plus side – people who find a2 milk beneficial
There are those who are strong advocates of a2 milk, including a blogger friend who is drinking it for 4 weeks to see if it eases her IBS symptoms. She tried it for 4 weeks and quickly Nathalie’s irritable bowel improved in just one week of substituting normal dairy milk for a2 milk.
Drink a2 milk to ease irritable bowels?
If you have a dairy intolerance this milk could help with digestion, irritable bowel etc. This does make sense to me and it’s clear it is already helping some people who drink it. It’s just the fear of allergic reactions that worries me if mistakes are made with this product. The makers of a2 milk make it clear it’s not suitable for anyone with a cow’s milk protein allergy but is the branding clear enough? I’m being picky here but is an intolerance caused by sugars or protein or both?
So why does a2 milk give me nightmares? Because one day someone may unwittingly serve this to a person with a dairy allergy and it might just be me. It might be you. It might be your mum, or nan, or friend who sees the marketing and thinks, hey my friend is lactose intolerant, she can drink this. It’s just confusing, the language we use to describe allergies, intolerances and food sensitivities.
Do you drink it? Does it work for you? I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried it. Have you had an allergic reaction to it?
It looks just like any other milk… once it’s poured out you can’t tell it’s got milk protein in it. I would strongly advise anyone with a dairy allergy should avoid this milk. It’s just not safe.
Bewildered Bug says
Hmm….in your description it did say the a1 casein protein was removed. I am very wary though – would love to know others’ experiences before I would even try. At the same time, I have been off of dairy for so long that i don’t like the taste of it anymore anyway (I don’t get as severe reactions as you do so have, in the past, cheated -*do as I say and not as I do*)….except good cheese. I miss that.
Hi Bewildered Bug, check out the Intolerant Ghourmand’s experience above (since writing this original blog I have found her blog about her trial using a2 milk and how much it eased her IBS. She has found it helps her in just one week but I suppose cutting out dairy has had the same effect for you. I guess you’d have to try it to see but not if you get anaphylactic or severe allergic reactions. And I agree, milk tastes rancid to me, always had but I think that’s my body alerting me to something it wants nothing to do with. Let me know if you do try it.
Malcolm Gaissert says
I have a few comments about the positive side of A2 milk. I have felt that I was lactose intolerant for years. Year ago I found a few enzymes that seemed to help but not completely. Then I was visiting southern Germany, Italy and Austria two years ago. Several weeks into our trip I realized that the milk in Berchtesgaden and Austria and the ice cream in Italy were not given me grief.
When we returned to California I started calling large milk producers and got information about A1 and A2 milk. Additionally most of the cows in the areas I had visited produced A2 milk. Then I found a supply of A2 milk in a grocery store and I am quite happily well from the A1 side affects.
I suggested using A2 milk to my brother. He found a store that sold it and gave it 5 months. He decided he doesn’t need it and returned to drinking regular milk.
What is important to know is that a cow produces only A1 or A2 milk, there is no mixing. What the scientists did was work out a test to determine what the individual cows produced and separate them. A1 producers in one pen and A2 producers in another. And the bottler continually tests to make sure the cows are kept separated.
I am quite happy that after 50 years I can drink milk without any concern or the need to take enzymes with the milk.
I know many people who love it. As someone who is allergic to it I just worry that someone else might think it’s dairy free. I’m glad it’s helping you.
Whoever thinks this is dairy free hasn’t looked into it. When you read up on milk you understand very quickly and easily that A2 milk is not dairy free – but that it is the 2nd protein instead for those with common milk sensitivity. For those that have any lactose intolerance- or those who may experience stomach GI issues at all, a2 is an alternative that is digested easier than those common milks .
& thank god there has been much further research as you see the dates of these comments and article. Lol
Know your body and and actually do the research.
And a response from a2 milk: Thank you for getting in touch, we really appreciate you taking the time to learn more about a2 Milk™.
You’re absolutely right, a2 Milk™ would not be an option for you or anyone else with a cows’ milk protein allergy. We do try and make that message as clear as we possibly can and we write it at the bottom of all our marketing correspondence.
The milk sugars have not been removed, it has the same amount of lactose in it that any regular cows’ milk would have. We therefore also always specify that a2 Milk™ is not suitable for people with a lactose intolerance.
It’s not just sugars that people can have an intolerance to, proteins can also be the cause of a food intolerance. Indeed gluten is a protein and one of the highest reported food intolerances. We had an independent expert write us a guest blog on the difference between an allergy and an intolerance – you may find it useful? http://a2milk.co.uk/the-difference-between-a-food-allergy-and-intolerance/
So here’s why some people have a problem with the A1 protein. The A1 protein in regular cows’ milk releases beta-casomorphin 7 (BCM7) when it’s digested, (the A2 protein does not). It’s the BCM7 that’s released that causes the inflammation in the gut as it binds to the gut cells making it difficult to digest (actually in a very similar way to gluten). Some people can break down the BCM7 without any problems, other people can’t – and the ones that can’t are the ones that will benefit from a2 Milk™.
Unfortunately, there is no formal test for A1 protein intolerance yet (research teams are looking into this). However, no diagnostic test (even for lactose intolerance) is completely accurate. To be sure of what is causing intolerance symptoms, it requires careful elimination, food challenge and monitoring your symptoms and we always recommend to seek medical support if people are unsure.
Sarah Shakespeare says
Ruth has kindly posted into the comments our a2 Milk™response to the blog post. But it is quite a complicated subject so if anyone has any questions, concerns or just wants a chat about a2 Milk™, we’re here and we want to help. Just email me on email@example.com
I’ve been approached by A2 which made me very annoyed since I have milk allergy and believe the milk industry is full of cruelty. The fact that they don’t research who they contact is just laziness. Aside from this personal issue, I really don’t see the point of this milk and their marketing smells of bullshit!
Thanks for the comment Sarah. As CarlyB commented on Twitter, it’s more about raising awareness of their product on a blog that may have some people following it who might be interested. Most of my followers probably would be allergic to dairy though and it they’re not they are unlikely to limit their diet to another special diet food if they don’t need to. I do still find a little confusing. It does however seem to help some people with IBS and problems digesting milk. I’m still confused also about the different between protein and sugar and allergy and intolerance. Can you be intolerant to the protein in milk? or would this be a very mild allergy? or actually just IBS? Who knows. I understand raw milk and I get lactose free milk but I’ll stick with my rice, oat, hemp, flax, coconut combo thanks.
As Sarah Shakespeare said many thanks for taking the time to post this blog. Allergy and intolerance is a complicated subject, made more difficult by the fact that diagnosis is not a 100% objective science, particularly for intolerance and requires the support of professional.
This our company and my personal aim at a2 milk to provide that education to healthcare professionals so that they can better support their patients who may struggle with dairy.
You are correct in that one can be intolerant to the protein found in milk (termed a non-IgE mediated allergic reaction), as well as other components of the milk (whey or lactose).
We believe this can be further categorised into A1 protein (casein) intolerance, as Sarah mentioned. mediated by the release of bovine casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) from the breakdown of A1 containing cows milk. There is huge amounts that can be read on BCMs, I’d point you to this link on our website that summarises its effects: http://a2milk.co.uk/about-a2-milk/
Indeed, you are also correct that there may also be crossover with other functional bowel disorders (such as IBS, IBD, coeliac disease, crohns disease) or in the case of some individuals their symptoms are not gastrointestinal in origin at all! and it could be dermatological, respiratory or behavioural. However, it does start with digestion and we are currently undertaking enormous research projects at various higher education institutions in Australia, UK and China to help solidify the effects of BCM-7 on various aspects of gastrointestinal health.
As a final note, intolerances can be non-specific and multiple, therefore you can be intolerant to the protein found in plant based foods. Simply switching to plant alternatives such as: soya, hemp, flax, coconut, rice etc. does not always clear up symptoms. From my perspective as a dietitian, since cow’s milk is such a nutritious food for those that may be able to keep it in their diet it’s a worthwhile swap to a2 for those that are appropriate.
I would disagree with the blanket comment that the dairy industry is ‘cruel’ and that is a reason to not drink a2 milk. We have some of the highest standards of support and care for our farmers and the cows they look after. The ethical standpoint of consuming animal products is a completely separate issue to that of whether they are necessary for human health and the two issues shouldn’t be mixed.
RE:cruelty – I merely explained my personal viewpoint of why I felt pissed at A2 contacting me looking for free promotion of their product!
Thanks for the reply. I will study this in more detail. I do want to understand the science behind this product. But I still think the words intolerance and allergy are getting confused here. You are either allergic or intolerant. Allergies can be tested for, intolerances are harder to pinpoint. Proteins cause allergic reactions and sugars e.g. lactose causes intolerant reactions. The words are interchangeable in your marketing and explanations. YOu say you can be intolerant to a protein – shouldn’t that be ‘allergic to a protein?’ still confused.
So many with a food intolerance say they have an allergy and this just gets so confusing… with an intolerance people can often eat small quantities.
Wow! A2 have certainly made sure they’re represented on here! To be clear ‘Rick’ is their dietitian – however, sports and nutrition are his specialism NOT allergies/intolerance. Please be aware that the term ‘milk intolerance,’ in terms of a specific condition (as A2 uses it, time and again), is now outdated. ‘Milk Intolerance’ merely an overarching term pertaining to all conditions which cause a reaction to milk. What used to be referred to as ‘milk intolerance’ is now more correctly referred to as Non-Ige mediated milk allergy. A2 milk is not suitable for any form of milk allergy. Just try Googling ‘Milk Intolerance’ (on recognised medical websites such as NHS Choices or on Patient.co.uk – which my GP friend uses as an information base to pass on to patients when explaining medical conditions) and you will see that there are three conditions which are recognised in relation to milk: Lactose Intolerance, Non-Ige Mediated Milk Allergy and Ige Mediated Milk Allergy.
Furthermore, ‘Sense About Science’s’ recent document on Allergy has the full backing and was written with the full co-operation of top allergy professionals in the UK and on p. 22 completely discredits any claims of A2’s claims about A1 proteins, to quote:
“Except that the best scientific
evidence suggests that A1 protein
intolerance does not exist. The position of
the Dietitians Association of Australia is
that “there is no solid scientific evidence
demonstrating that a2 milk is better for
you than regular milk.39” This company is
marketing a product for a condition that
the best scientific evidence suggests does not exist.”
Thank you for your comment.
To be very clear on my background, aside from working in the NHS and private practice as a dietitian for nearly 6 years, I have a number of years of lecturing in Nutrition and Dietetics at undergraduate and postgraduate level; food hypersensitivity is part of the syllabus of both of these groups. Whilst sports nutrition is my specialism, food hypersensitivity features amongst this group too (exercise induced anaphylaxis just one example) and amongst my current caseload of patients. I am not a direct specialist in food hypersensitivity but I am qualified to comment on this topic.
You correctly identify that milk intolerance is an outdated term, but haven’t described accurately what non-IgE mediated food allergy is?
From what I can see Ruth was asking for clarification of.
Non-IgE mediated food allergy is occasionally (possibly wrongly) termed food intolerance, when the more up to date term is food hypersensitivity. The use of the word ‘allergy’ makes this confusing as individuals attach themselves to the word, but it is not diagnosable through support of a biochemical assessment alike ‘true’ allergies (IgE-mediated allergy) due to its non-innate immune system propagation.
However, consumers (and healthcare professionals) use the terms non-IgE food allergy/hypersensitivity/intolerance interchangeably and it does cause confusion, I completely agree with what Ruth says. The example of Lactose intolerance is a good example, another is non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, which is not well categorised diagnostically at present (due to a lack of research) but is very much a debilitating condition for suffers that follows a similar treatment pattern to other forms of food hypersensitivity. Identify the food component of issue (in this case gluten) and exclude carefully to tolerable level (which may be total elimination but could involve some reintroduction).
So as you can see, the non-IgE mediated food hypersensitivity can be to the protein, sugar or even another component in food (e.g. salicylates). I refer you to the World Allergy Organisation if you’d like to read more: http://www.worldallergy.org/professional/allergic_diseases_center/foodallergy/
I want to be clear that a2 milk does not make the claim that it is a treatment for IgE-mediated cow’s milk protein hypersensitivity or non-IgE mediated cow’s milk hypersensitivity, especially in paediatrics. However, it is very clear that one can be sensitive to cow’s milk outside of the common food intolerance spectrum.
This is where A1 protein intolerance comes in, individuals with a sensitivity to the byproduct of A1 protein digestion (the exorphin, BCM-7) fall into this category of suffers. In the future there could well be a diagnostic test that aids formal diagnosis but not at present.
There are independent researchers in the UK and across the world conducting further trials into the mechanisms that underpin the aetiology of A1 protein intolerance. The Sense about Science report based their consensus on the EFSA 2009 report, so it is 6 years out of date. There has been further research since then and in the light of new evidence being presented to them, their consensus could well change. So in effect, watch this space.
I hope this clears things up, if either of you would like to talk about this further I can be reached via the a2 milk UK website and always happy to chat.
Howard Fleming says
I believe I have cows dairy allergy as my skin peels of my face every time I drink normal milk I’ve also had IBS for thirty years so I tried goats milk instead and I am fine with that I’ve had an lactose intolerance test and have been told I’m not lactose intolerant. I believe I’m casein intolerant someone mentioned to me that theirs a milk called A2 which is supposed have less casein in so I gave it a try but was awoke in the middle of the night with bad dioreha so it’s back to the goats milk again no more cows milk or dairy I’m a bit puzzled now but I think I must have a cows milk and dairy allergy because goats milk and cheese is fine. What does anyone else think it could be or am I right.
Linda C says
Your opening statement is totally incorrect. A2 milk is the original and A1 milk is the result of a mutation. A2 milk is not “a new type of milk …where the A1 protein has been bred out of the milk.” Perhaps you should have interviewed some scientists, or done some research to get the facts before blogging. I hope it is not your intent to instill panic based on alternative facts.
I’ve had IBS-D for over 20yrs. I was tested for milk allergy in 2005 and was “slightly positive”, but a retest in 2017 was negative. I’ve been eating lactose-free or nearly-lactose-free products but have still had IBS issues. I tried A2 milk recently and had no intestinal side effects. It was wonderful. Cereal became delicious again. However, after about 5 days of gradually increasing my A2 milk intake (3oz to 8oz per day), I started having heart palpitations, swollen ankles, and shortness of breath. I stopped drinking the A2 milk and the swelling and shortness of breath went away in about 24hrs. The heart palps went away in a few days. I ran into someone at the health food store who had a similar experience. She said it was due to the ultra-pasteurization. I’m not sure the reason, but I’m staying away from A2 milk and dairy in general from now on if possible.
Ruth Holroyd says
Hi Nicole, it could be the protein in the milk you are reacting to. A2 milk still has protein in it, but has had one major protein removed, which is the one called A1, hence the name. I know many who find it really useful but also many who it is not suitable for. Just be careful people.
Ruth Holroyd says
Ah not sure what it was you were reacting to but it could be the A2 protein by the sounds of it. Or you may be lactose intolerant as A2 will still contain lactose. A2 has had the main most allergeic allergen removed, but still contains A1 protein so please be very careful everyone.
Bobette Bryan says
That sounds more like a milk allergy.
I just now tried A2 milk for the first and I’m experiencing shortness of breath. It seems like an allergic reaction to be honest. But, I’m not going to use it anymore.
Ruth Holroyd says
If you are allergic to dairy it will not be suitable. It could be OK for those with a lactose intolerance. Hope you are OK and stick to plant milks.
Bobette Bryan says
I’ve had a milk allergy since birth. I’m now 55. I’m allergic to both whey and casein. I tried an ultra- pasteurized version of this milk last night, and I’m tolerating it much better than regular milk, and for that I’m thankful. I’m not going to drink it every day, but occasionally, it would be great for certain dishes like mashed potatoes.
Tim Sayers says
Please try this https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1017p26.shtml
in light of this
I used to drink liters of normal milk every day. From childhood over 2 liters a day in teens. with n hassles. Love the stuff.
I am now 60 years old and was still drinking normal milk every day at work with no bad impacts .
Now getting anaphylaxis from trying A2 only milk in the last two weeks. ended up having to go to Hospital. (they gave me anti histamines (see the first link) and steroids. Tried A2 a week after getting back home and the extreme allergic reaction came back.
I think I may have been and gotten over any milk allergy when very young (see lower down in second link – Around 80% of children will outgrow their cow’s milk allergy by the age of three to five years.) ,
Now A2 is causing a really debilitating issue with this severe swelling around eyes and hives on face mainly, that goes away a few days after stopping the A2.
Only happened twice so far, but very clear on my intakes and what caused this. I am going to test one more time once this last lot clears in a day or two.
Ruth Holroyd says
WOW I’m so sorry to hear this. That is so weird! Why should A2 milk be so different to normal milk? I’m interested to hear if your final test has the same effect but be very careful! Allergic reactions can get worse on each exposure. Is this now going to affect all your dairy consumption or just A2 milk? You take care! And know that if you do now have a raging milk allergy, very nice plant milks exist!