What’s A2 Milk, Anyway? Your Questions Answered
Have you ever noticed a product called “A2 milk” in the dairy case at your local supermarket? While it has been available in New Zealand and Australia for more than a decade, A2 cow’s milk appeared only in the past few years in the United States, first in California.
Now, A2 cow’s milk is being rolled out across America and is available in more and more grocery stores. For those curious about this dairy product, we’ve got answers to some frequently asked questions.
What is A2 cow’s milk?
Cow’s milk is a source of high quality proteins, casein and whey. Casein has two common forms, known as A1 and A2 beta-casein. In the United States, most cow’s milk contains both A1 and A2 beta-caseins. However, certain cow breeds provide milk with only the A2 beta-casein protein. This cow’s milk is called A2 milk. All other components of A2 cow’s milk and traditional cow’s milk are identical.
What is so special about A2 milk?
There are claims that A2 beta-casein is easier to digest than A1 beta-casein. These claims say that A1 beta-casein in traditional cow’s milk may cause or contribute to digestive discomfort and inflammation, which in turn increases the risk for some chronic diseases such as heart disease. The theory is that A2 milk may be an option for some people who believe they are lactose intolerant and experience discomfort after drinking milk, but but this discomfort may in fact be related to a sensitivity to A1 beta-casein.
Does traditional cow’s milk increase inflammation and chronic disease risk?
Emerging research shows that consuming traditional dairy foods as part of a healthy eating plan does not cause inflammation. Further, intake of milk and other dairy foods is associated with reduced risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, as well as improved body composition and bone health.
What does the research say about the health benefits of A2 milk?
To date, there have been only a few studies with people comparing A2 cow’s milk with traditional cow’s milk. One including a pilot study in 41 adults and another investigation in 45 Chinese adults who self-reported an intolerance to milk. While some differences in digestive responses were reported, the findings from these small studies are insufficient to draw conclusions. More research, particularly involving a larger number of people, is needed to support claims of A2 milk’s benefits beyond those of traditional cow’s milk.
Should individuals diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance consume A2 cow’s milk?
Individuals diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy should avoid all cow’s milk, including A2 milk, until advised to reintroduce it under the guidance of a doctor. Regarding lactose intolerance, A2 cow’s milk has the same amount of lactose per serving as traditional cow’s milk. Strategies to help manage lactose intolerance include consuming reduced lactose or lactose-free cow’s milk, small amounts of cow’s milk at a time, yogurt with live, active cultures, and/or aged cheeses.
Is there a downside to consuming A2 cow’s milk?
There is no reason to suspect that consuming A2 cow’s milk is unsafe or harmful. Given their shared nutritional profile, A2 cow’s milk can be expected to provide the same science-based health benefits as traditional cow’s milk. A downside of A2 cow’s milk is its premium price tag, which is about twice that of traditional cow’s milk. Consuming A2 cow’s milk is preferable to eliminating dairy foods from your diet, or turning to plant-based alternative beverages, both of which may increase the risk of nutrient shortcomings.
Bottom Line. More research is needed to support a digestive advantage of A2 cow’s milk compared to traditional cow’s milk. Regardless of whether you choose traditional cow’s milk or A2 milk, cow’s milk is a nutrient-rich food providing nine essential nutrients and is associated with bone and other health benefits.