A1 vs. A2 Milk: Does It Really Matter the Type?

y Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

With the rise of non-dairy products like plant-based milk, oat milk, etc., there are better choices than dairy products at local coffee shops and grocery stores these days. But did you even know there was such a thing as A1 and A2 milk? It’s not highly talked about, so probably not.

The fact is, many popular anti-inflammatory diets and eating plans put dairy on the “avoid” list. If you have been following a holistic health approach and lifestyle, you might opt for a non-dairy creamer instead of a traditional dairy-based creamer in your coffee. This can give you a similar taste and potentially be easier on your digestion. But what could you be giving up on?

Good-quality dairy provides quite a bit of simple and beneficial nutrition, such as protein, amino acids, glutathione, and colostrum. It’s also budget-friendly and can bring a lot of flavors and options to your meals. Imagine if there was a method to reintegrate dairy into your nutrition plan without the uncomfortable feelings of bloating, skin breakouts, mental fogginess, or decreased energy levels. Well, there is!

In this article, we are going to dive into A1 vs. A2 milk and how the type can matter when making nutritional choices.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor to understand if A1 or A2 milk would be a better option for you.

A1 and A2 Milk: What’s the Hype?

A1 and A2 milk differ in protein content, particularly the type of casein, with some indications that A2 might be healthier. A2 milk is marketed as a better choice than regular A1 milk due to its asserted health benefits and easier digestion for those with milk intolerance.

Casein is the largest group of proteins found in milk, making up around 80% of the total protein content. There are various types of casein in milk, and beta-casein is the second most common one, which exists in at least 13 different variations.

Let’s take a quick dive into A1 and A2 milk.

  • A1 beta-casein: Cows from northern European origins like Holstein, Friesian, Ayrshire, and British Shorthorn tend to produce milk with higher levels of A1 beta-casein.
  • A2 beta-casein: Milk with elevated A2 beta-casein is primarily sourced from cow breeds originating in the Channel Islands and southern France, such as Guernsey, Jersey, Charolais, and Limousin cows.

The milk we consume regularly contains both A1 and A2 beta-casein, although A2 milk has more A2 beta-casein. Some studies report that A1 beta-casein may be harmful and A2 is a safer choice, but more research is needed to fully confirm this is the case.

Which Option is More Suitable for Individuals with Dairy Allergies?

Research has found that 2-3% of infants and up to 3% of adults have been diagnosed with a dairy allergy (interestingly enough, I was one of them as a child before I outgrew the allergy). However, is this allergy directed towards all types of milk or something specific? Some researchers suggest the latter.

Certain individuals mistakenly attribute their digestive discomfort to lactose found in milk. Lactose is essentially the natural sugar present in milk and dairy items.

It’s important to distinguish between lactose intolerance and dairy allergy. Some who believe they are lactose intolerant discover that even lactose-free dairy products lead to undesirable effects like bloating, diarrhea, and gas. If this situation resonates with you, it’s possible that you’re not truly lactose intolerant but rather allergic to A1 beta-casein.

Scientists propose that because A2 milk is digested more quickly than A1 milk, it might help decrease gastrointestinal inflammation and other related issues.

What Are the Concerns Surrounding A1 Milk?

The majority of cows globally are of the A1 variety. Research suggests A1 milk can lead to opiate-like effects and may contribute to medical conditions.

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): A1 milk consumption, especially as an alternative to breastfeeding, may expose infants to high levels of BCM-7, contributing to breathing problems and SIDS.
  • Type 1 Diabetes: Children consuming A1 milk face an elevated risk of developing type 1 diabetes, characterized by insulin deficiency.
  • Autism Connection: The BCM-7 element in A1 milk is believed to be linked to autism — significant BCM-7 levels were found in the urine of individuals with autism.
  • Heart Disease: Research shows regular A1 milk intake correlates with increased heart disease risk due to fat buildup in blood vessels.
  • Digestive Health: Lactose intolerance, causing bloating and diarrhea, stems from the inability to digest milk sugar. A2 milk is thought to cause less bloating than A1, possibly due to factors beyond lactose, including certain milk proteins.

Health Benefits of A2 Milk

Common digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea following dairy consumption are often linked to lactose intolerance. However, some researchers propose that BCM-7, not lactose, could be responsible for similar symptoms in certain individuals.

A study on Chinese adults with milk intolerance revealed that regular milk (containing A1 and A2 proteins) caused more stomach pain and altered bowel movements, while A2-only milk didn’t trigger such symptoms. Participants reported better tolerance to A2 milk, suggesting that A1 protein might play a role in digestive discomfort.

Ask Your Doctor Which is Right for You

If you want to learn more about whether A1 or A2 milk is best for you and if you may have a dairy allergy or intolerance, it’s best to sit down with your doctor and evaluate your situation to find the best answer.