What is A2 Milk (and Can it Really Beat Bloating)

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A2 milk sounds like it should come from magic cows. It’s a different type of milk that it’s claimed can help reduce bloating and other digestive symptoms. But do you know what it actually is? We explain….

Cartoon drawing of a cow with it's tail in the air to illustrate 'what is A2 milk.' Strange but true, A2 cows have their tails combed to check what type of milk they produce

What is A2 Milk?

Disappointingly, A2 milk is not from magic cows, it’s milk from normal cows – but they are cows specially chosen by a DNA test using tail hair which I think is pretty magical.

‘Hey Joe, what do you do for a living? ‘ ‘I comb the tails of cows and see if they make milk without that protein that upsets people.’

But I’m right in saying it might beat bloat – and other nasty dairy-related symptoms – in some people.

Why Is A2 Milk Different?

Most milk contains two slightly different types of a protein called beta-casein – which have (rather boringly for writers) been named A1 and A2  – and it’s been suggested that some people have trouble digesting A1.

The reason is that when it’s digested it causes the release of a peptide which has been shown to cause digestive problems in animals – and the supposition is it does it in humans too.

Yes for years lactose has been getting all the bad press as to why drinking milk triggers bloating, wind and sudden runs to the bathroom – but it might not be the culprit.

Some people might actually only have issues digesting A1.

This might explain why so many people who swear blind they can’t drink milk because it upsets them don’t have a positive result when they are tested for lactose intolerance. Lactose isn’t their problem.

You’ve guessed what’s coming here haven’t you – the difference between A2 milk and A1 milk is that A2 milk doesn’t contain any A1 protein. It comes from cows whose genetic make up doesn’t allow them to make it (hence the DNA tail test to find them).

Are the A2 Milk Benefits Proven?

Now I do admit, there’s a lot of experts who say this is puffery – that there’s no evidence that this particular peptide causes problems.

There’s also however a whole heap of people in Australia where the milk has been sale for a few years now whose bellies and bowels disagree.

A 2014 study by a team at Curtin University in Perth on 41 people found that they had less digestive discomfort from drinking A2 milk than A1 milk. The researchers said the difference was significant, but that they needed a larger sample population to really show positive effects.

A study on mice carried out in India showed that the mice produced fewer inflammatory substances after drinking A2 milk than that with A1 protein.

On top of that, research in China that reported in 2016 found that people drinking milk with both A1 and A2 proteins suffered more digestive distress and inflammation afterwards than people drinking milk only containing A2 protein.

a2 milk

Does A2 Milk Contain Lactose?

Yes, it does. Apart from coming from a specific cow, A2 Milk is just normal milk and therefore it’s not suitable for anyone with diagnosed milk allergy or lactose intolerance. The ingredients that cause these are still in the product.

Are Other Health Effects Linked to A1 Protein?

There has been some discussion of this – there’s a theory that A1 protein might be linked to the development of type 1 diabetes in mice with a certain gene pattern – and that children who drink milk containing A1 protein may also have a higher risk of type 1 diabetes.

So far though there’s no clear evidence that this is the case in people.

The protein has also been linked to a higher incidence of heart disease with proponents of the theory suggesting that A1 protein triggers a build up of fat in the arteries. But again, so far, there’s no conclusive proof that this is the case in humans.

The Verdict

If you have digestive effects after drinking normal milk and haven’t had a confirmed diagnosis or milk allergy or lactose intolerance, it might be worth swapping to A2 milk and seeing if things change.

After all, milk is one of the best sources of calcium in our diet – and we need calcium for healthy bones – and hundreds of other processes in the body.

A2 Milk does cost a little more than normal milk, but it’s not a significant amount more so it’s definitely worth considering.

If you’re also looking for other alternatives to milk, you can of course try some of the plant-based milks on the market. The most common that you’ll find include oat milk, almond milk and soy milk – but also have a look at this post on flaxseed milk which you might not have seen before.

Who is The Wellness Nerd?

My name is Helen Foster, and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail, and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.

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