‘Organic A2 Milk’ is another label you might have seen in the dairy aisle at your local supermarket.
A2 milk is related to having reduced gastrointestinal symptoms – this article will discuss the truth behind this claim.
WHAT IS ORGANIC A2 milk?
70% of cow’s milk contains A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins. However, A2 milk uses naturally selected cows, which only produce milk containing the A2 protein.
Organic A2 milk is the organic version of A2 milk. If a food is ‘organic’ this means it is produced or involves production without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides or other artificial chemicals.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH CLAIMS OF ORGANIC A2 MILK?
Claims around organic A2 milk are suggestive that problems digesting regular milk involve the reaction to the A1 protein in cow’s milk via an inflammatory process.
By switching to the A2 cow’s milk, those who previously had issues are suggested to tolerate the milk and digest it better without the gastrointestinal discomfort experienced.
DOES ORGANIC A2 MILK IMPROVE DAIRY TOLERANCE?
As with many health claims, the proposed benefits of organic A2 milk are based on animal studies irrelevant to how the human body works.
Thankfully, there are now a couple of more useful human studies which we can look at.
The results of one human study has suggested that A1 protein increases stool consistency but not frequency (1).
To translate – your poop is more formed, but the number of times you go to the loo won’t differ by changing your milk.
Researchers suggested that such results were due to A1 proteins causing inflammation.
However, researchers failed to highlight that they monitored inflammation, and there were no changes with A1 and A2 milk proteins.
A later human study carried out more accurately has shown some more promising results (2).
In this trial, the researchers looked at the effects of regular vs A2 milk on individuals who reported having digestive problems with dairy intake.
Results showed that ‘normal milk’ appeared to slow down the time it takes for food to move through the gut.
Slowing down the gut transit time was attributed to increased bloating, wind, borborygmus (rumbling stomach) and stool frequency but not with A2 milk (2).
In terms of inflammation, this study showed increased inflammatory blood markers with regular milk but not A2 milk.
After making the switch to A2 milk, 36% of the participants had an improvement in their inflammation markers.
One study found that when drinking A1 milk, this milk type reduced the activity of the lactase enzyme needed to break down the milk protein (lactose).
As a result, participants experienced more gastrointestinal discomfort (3).
However, this sample was based on adults in China – where the prevalence of lactose intolerance is likely to differ from other populations (4).
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU THINK MILK CAUSES YOU DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS?
Milk is an essential component of our diet, so if you have a problem with it, DO NOT just avoid it.
Reducing sources of calcium, iodine and B12 (such as milk) can put you at greater risk of osteoporosis, which causes bone thinning.
If you have reduced your milk consumption, consider including other foods for healthy bones in your diet.
If you are on a low FODMAP diet and wondering ‘does low FODMAP milk exist?, follow the link to learn more.
People who react to milk have digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, stomach pain and bloating.
These symptoms are ‘non-specific’. Symptoms that are ‘non-specific’ means that these symptoms could apply to numerous medical conditions.
A host of conditions, such as coeliac disease, cancer, IBS, other allergies or inflammatory bowel disease, could cause the symptoms mentioned previously.
Therefore, you MUST get a proper diagnosis rather than trying to self-manage.
WHERE CAN I BUY ORGANIC A2 MILK?
If you are in the UK, the following farm shops supply A2 milk (they also deliver!);
More accessible options include Tesco in semi-skimmed and whole varieties.
Check out your local supermarket or health food shops, but be prepared to pay more than your regular cow’s milk.
ARE THERE ANY ALTERNATIVES TO A2 MILK?
Yes, all plant and nut milk, e.g. soya, almond and coconut milk, naturally contain no lactose or animal milk proteins.
Shop-bought UK products are fortified with calcium to prevent you from missing out.
WHAT ABOUT LACTOSE-FREE MILK?
Lactose-free milk is cow’s milk with an enzyme added to remove the lactose (5).
Lactose is a sugar found in milk, and those with lactose intolerance cannot digest it. So lactose-free dairy is ideal for those with lactose intolerance.
It still contains milk proteins which cause problems for those with a milk allergy, which is therefore unsuitable in this case.
Lactose intolerance – what is it? How is it diagnosed? How do I manage it?
Overall, if you do not have a digestive problem related to milk, then A2 milk will be of no benefit.
Importantly, if you have common digestive symptoms, you must get a proper diagnosis from a doctor.
If medical reasons for your symptoms are ruled out, you should see a registered specialist dietitian to determine your dietary cause.
Your dietitian may trial you with A2 milk as an alternative to regular cow’s milk as good evidence supports its use for those with difficulties digesting cow’s milk.
Reviewed by Camilla Donaldson (Nutrition BSc Hons), reviewed by Kirsten Jackson, Consultant Dietitian BSc Hons, RD, PG Cert
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.
Last updated on May 25th, 2023 at 09:34 pm