Beta-casein A1 and A2 in milk & health

Could milk from Guernsey cattle be more healthy than milk from Holsteins due to genetic factors? — little known research from down under focuses on Beta-casein A1 and A2 in milk and human health.

“There are several genetically-determined variants of B-casein, the protein which constitutes about 25-30% of cows’ milk proteins. One variant, A1 B-casein, has been implicated as a potential etiological factor in type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM-1), ischaemic heart disease (IHD), schizophrenia and autism. Another variant (A2 B-casein) has not been implicated in these diseases….”

The excerpt above is from a 2004 report to the New Zealand Food Safety authority by Professor Boyd Swinton, professor of public health nutrition, Deakin University, Melbourne. Read the whole 43-page report here.

While this story is not about raw milk specifically, it is about interesting research on an aspect of milk with major health implications, research that seems to have been largely buried or ignored.

Apparently, the predominance of A1 or A2 B-casein is related to the breed of cattle which the milk comes from. For instance, Holsteins seem to have mostly A1, while Guernseys have predominantly A2. Here’s a further discussion of the issue from Gordon Watson’s “Bovinity”. The excerpt below is from a story by Tom Valentine titled “A1 A2 milk gene story too important to ignore“. It looks like the story was originally from “True Health“, although searching now on the website for “A1 A2” or even “milk” yields no results. Curious.

“… It’s all about one ittybitty gene, and it’s driving me nuts

I know I should not let things get me so upset. After all, it isn’t as though there aren’t a myriad other irrational, illogical corrupt and asinine public positions taken in the health and food sector – so why should this one get to me more than the others?

Maybe it’s because I remember how much drinking milk meant to me as a growing boy. Or it is because I can envision millions upon millions of young children drinking their milk ( for better health) in school cafeterias everywhere. Whatever the reason, the fact that this story is being utterly ignored drives me to distraction. This is an issue that need not be controversial for decades before resolution — like mercury in our mouths or trans-fatty acids found in billions of supermarket junk products. This issue can be resolved quickly, and it should be — because we tell our kids to drink their milk every day

The issue is the genetic makeup of everyday cow’s milk. Whether that milk is A1 or A2 might make all the difference in the world to chronic disease rates of the future. Apparently it has made a difference in the amount of diabetes, heart disease, autism and other maladies for a long, long time.

We broke the sensational A-2 milk story a year ago in June and followed up with the breaking story of animal research verifying the controversial thesis that A1 milk is unhealthy in July 2003

Then the story suddenly stopped in its tracks, as if drinking milk isn’t a major factor in the health of young children. The two main protagonists behind this story in New Zealand died late in 2003. On top of that, the company here in America that purchased the rights to the A2 milk patents has had nothing to say … nothing! This really, really bugs me. Even the people concerned with organic, raw milk are ignoring A2 milk. Why?

Because there are a lot of costly commercial changes that “all” the dairy industries must make when this genetic milk question gets the attention it deserves.

True Health is resurrecting this important milk controversy because serious health advocates are going to want raw, organic A2 milk — especially for their children. We continue to be amazed that the major media in America has ignored this important story since it first erupted in the New Zealand and Australian press, and in scientific journals a few years ago

There is new information, thanks to the genes in the Guernsey breed of milk cows. Guernsey are naturally more genetically-capable of producing A2 dominant milk, and both the US and British Guernsey Breeding Associations have begun to sponsor more scientific studies to support the thesis as they genetically test their breeder bulls and herd in order to advertise this advantage

Be prepared to hear the naysayer chants from Holstein and other popular dairy breeds, as well as the modern dairy industry that brought you unsanitary, homogenized pasteurized and inferior products for decades.

Milk is a traditional staple food. It contains about 32 grams of protein per quart and 82% of that protein is casein. Casein is divided into four subclasses with beta-casein as the second most abundant. Scientists have determined 10 genetic characterizations for beta-casein with A1, A2, A3 and B found in virtually all common – Bos taurus – dairy cow populations. In a nutshell the thesis is : A1 milk is bad ; A2 milk is good.

Going back to the beginning, the story started in New Zealand, an island nation with dairy one its major exports. Back in 1991 Dr Bob Elliott, a paediatrician, noticed during clinical visits to the Pacific Islands that children of the islands did not have any Type 1 diabetes. He also noted that dairy cows were not part of the cultures of the islands.

(At True Health we are harkened back to the work of Dr Weston A Price in the 1930s, when he demonstrated conclusively that cultural differences in the diet clearly resulted in basic health differences. The Establishment ignored his work, but ‘what else is new?’ Of course, Dr Price did not have the modern science of genetics working for him )

Dr Elliott took his observations about the lack of diabetes dovetailing with the lack of cow’s milk to Dr Jeremy Hill, chief protein chemist for the old Dairy Board of New Zealand. Hill then suggested that the protein type might be to blame — A1 beta casein as opposed to A2 beta casein

How Dr Hill knew such a possibility lurked has not been explained

Dr Elliott set out to prove A1 could be a disease cause. With the backing of the Dairy Board and the Child Health Research Foundation, he tested the idea on mice, feeding them either A1 or A2 protein.

None of the animals consuming A2 milk developed diabetes, many in the A1 group did. Elliott and the organizations knew they were on to something. The group filed for the first patents to test cows for A1 and A2 milk producers

However Dr Elliott committed an unpardonable sin in scientific circles … he gave his findings to the media before they were published in the peer-reviewed literature

Naturally the A1 diabetes connection was headlined for several days by the media Down Under, and the Dairy Board was stung by its own research. The eruption of controversy generated defensive dogma in the status quo and the work was happily dismissed by the world-wide industry / academic powers…”

Here’s a link to the full story on Bovinity.


Filed under News

17 responses to “Beta-casein A1 and A2 in milk & health

  1. Pingback: A1 beta-casein in milk also implicated in autism and schizophrenia. Percent A1 and A2 in milk is breed dependent. « The Bovine

  2. Pingback: A2 milk solution to lactose intolerance, allergies, other illness? — Natural News « The Bovine

  3. Judith

    Where can we get our cows tested for the a2a2 DNA?

  4. thebovine

    Judith, if you’re in New Zealand, try A2 corporation.

  5. joe

    who’s got guernsey dairy cows in the US? Chicago area specifically?

  6. Do you know if Jerseys are like the Guernseys, in that they are more likely to have A2? Have any of the semen companies tested their bulls, so their customers can buy A2 semen?

  7. thebovine

    Stephanie, as far as Semen testing, I believe that’s being done in New Zealand, but I doubt it’s being done elsewhere yet. However, I’m sure as the demand grows, it will be done.

    My understanding is that Jerseys do have a tendency to have typically more A2 genes than Holsteins, but not so much as Guernseys.

  8. Is there any source of guernsey produced milk in the Aspen Colorado area?

  9. thebovine

    I wouldn’t know. Perhaps some reader out there might know and could comment.

  10. Nicole

    Cows can be either A2/A2, A2/A1, or A1/A1 and other times carry the B-Casein gene as well. It has been observed that the heritage breeds seem to carry more A2 than do the large commercial breeds. Holsteins and Jersey’s carry a lower percentage of the coveted A2 gene because the A1 cows have better udders, better conformation, and seem to give more milk than there A2 counterparts. Many company’s will send you a bull list upon request because breeders are now factoring the A2 protein into their breeding programs. For $25 a head you can get your animals tested through UC Davis in Southern California. Some producers of raw milk have taken advantage of this information and created niche markets for those willing to pay top dollar for the A2 milk.

  11. Chris

    We at Interglobe a family owned AI company near Chicago have started testing some of our bulls for the A2A2 gene. We don’t have results yet. It will be interesting to see what happens, we have only tested Holsteins because certain Holstein famlies do carry the A2A2 gene.

  12. Pingback: - blogging the big picture » Some milk encourages autism, schizophrenia, diabetes and heart disease.

  13. Rj

    You can get testing here, and there is a forum for sharing info on the subject feel free to join.

  14. Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely believe that this web site needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the advice!

  15. Mia

    I’ve been using goats milk ( expensive in the USA, not as much in England) as an alternative ever since I read your story not long after you posted it. I’m not surprised there isn’t more coverage about this, or how few people know about the two types of Milk.
    Change for the betterment for all, it seems is not as favourable as keeping on the same track, regardless the consequences to people’s health.

    Thank you for this story & your insight!.


    hey … i will tell u more efficient milk of cow that is more healthy than Guernsey cow milk .which fights against obesity and atherosclerosis.

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