A1 and A2 milk articles continue to attract a lot of interest here on The Bovine. Here’s the latest on the subject — an ABC television program transcript from the April 7, 2010 edition of “The 7:30 report” dealing with the topic “Dairy Debate — claims that milk could make you sick”:
“Cows’ milk has long been championed as a part of a healthy, nutritious diet. But could it also be a trigger for a long list of diseases like juvenile Diabetes, heart disease, Schizophrenia even Autism?
KERRY O’BRIEN, PRESENTER: For generations, cows’ milk has been championed as a healthy, nutritious part of the daily diet, but there are claims it could also be a trigger of for a long list of diseases like juvenile diabetes, heart disease, schizophrenia and even autism. It’s a debate that started in New Zealand more than a decade ago after some scientists claimed regular milk could be harmful. The theory goes that a protein in regular milk called A1 can make its way to the bloodstream, causing disease. But other experts say the science is dubious and the dairy industry warns that critics of regular milk are sending a dangerous message. Lisa Whitehead reports.
LISA WHITEHEAD, REPORTER: It’s 6 o’clock in the morning in the central Victorian town of Kyabram and the local milk processing plant is in full swing. This raw milk is being pasteurised and bottled, bound for supermarkets in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
It looks and smells just like regular milk, comes from dairy cows and is full of calcium. But some claim this particular milk, called A2, is a wonder food.
MELISSA AITKEN: With the milk, it was an immediate difference.
LISA WHITEHEAD: Melissa Aitken made the switch from regular milk to A2 after months of battling bouts of deep tissue swelling and hives.
MELISSA AITKEN: My tummy symptoms that I did have as well, they settled down immediately. The rash and the deep tissue swelling took about four weeks to settle down.
LISA WHITEHEAD: She heard the A2 story from her neighbour, Kyabram dairy farmer Peter Mulcahy, who says he saw the same improvement in his daughter Alexandra.
PETER MULCAHY, DAIRY FARMER: She used to get diarrhoea and vomit as a baby if we gave her anything that had dairy in it, was seen to be the issue for her.
LISA WHITEHEAD: So just what is A2 milk?
Most dairy cows in Australia are A1, so-called because they give milk with an A1 protein. Other cows give milk with a combination of A1 and A2 proteins.
A third smaller group produces milk containing just the A2 protein.
Less than one per cent of the nation’s two million dairy cows are certified A2.
Peter Mulcahy’s family paid $150,000 to DNA test all their cows, sorting the A2 from the rest. It now supplies most of the raw A2 milk to the family-owned processing plant in Kyabram.
PETER MULCAHY: Watching the benefits in our kids certainly supported the decision to go down the A2 track, yeah.
MELISSA AITKEN: I shout it from the rooftops, so to speak. I try and let as many people know.
LISA WHITEHEAD: Consumer testimonials like theirs are a feature of the A2 milk company’s website, promoting the product as intolerance protection.
Critics like endocrinologist and nutrition expert Professor Peter Clifton say this anecdotal evidence isn’t supported by any clinical trials.
PETER CLIFTON, BAKER IDI HEART & DIABETES INSTITUTE: It’s the same as all the things in the health food shop: people buy them at vast expense, there’s no scientific evidence that they actually do anything, but people find, for them, it provides personal benefit and they’ll continue buying it.
MALCOLM RILEY, DAIRY AUSTRALIA: I’m not sure what intolerance protection actually means. A2 milk has lactose in it. If a person’s lactose intolerant, they’ll also be lactose intolerant to A2 milk.
LISA WHITEHEAD: Claims of intolerance protection are one thing, but in the past decade or so, supporters of the A2 theory have staked much higher ground, claiming regular or A1 milk could be the trigger for juvenile diabetes, heart disease, schizophrenia, even autism. They claim that trigger is found in a weak link in A1 milk’s chain of amino acids, causing the chain to break and creating a small piece called BCm7. They say that piece moves through the gut wall into the bloodstream causing disease.
It’s what Professor Keith Woodford of New Zealand’s Lincoln University calls “the devil in the milk”.
KEITH WOODFORD, AUTHOR, DEVIL IN THE MILK: I think we can say that there is very strong evidence and that it’s very definitely a very strong risk factor for all those diseases. We can still have some debate about proof and what do we finally mean by proof?
PETER CLIFTON: I think they are sending a dangerous message and all the epidemiology to date in relation to dairy consumption and health shows no harm.
LISA WHITEHEAD: The A2 theory made its first splash in the 1990s after some studies made a correlation between countries with a high consumption of regular milk and high rates of certain diseases.
PETER CLIFTON: There are so many differences between countries other than what their milk herds have. So to attribute differences in schizophrenia rates or type one diabetes rates on the basis of what kind of milk’s in the food supply is not convincing at all.
LISA WHITEHEAD: At almost twice the price of regular milk, A2 makes up just over half of one per cent of sales in the competitive white milk market. But due to some aggressive marketing, its share has trebled in the past three years.
The A2 milk company is a joint venture between New Zealand’s A2 Corporation and Freedom Foods. It’s wary about the way it promotes the product, mindful that back in 2004 another A2 milk marketer was convicted of making false and misleading health claims.
Why don’t you go as far as claiming that A1 milk can cause heart disease, juvenile diabetes, even autism?…”
More on A1 and A2 milk on the Bovine: