OPINION: A2 milk has been featuring on the supermarket shelves for some time now and is marketed as being beneficial for people who ‘have trouble drinking regular milk’.
The company whose slogan features ‘feel the difference’ report some consumers find having a2 milk ‘feels better in their bodies and is more comfortable to digest’.
A2 milk can be purchased at any of the main supermarket chains throughout the country and comes in either a 2L or 1L light proof bottle. Nutritionally a2 milk is very similar in terms of protein, calcium, fats and vitamins to standard milk and also comes in a full fat and light option.
So what is a2 milk and what is all the fuss about?
Milk consists of two proteins – casein and whey, of which casein accounts for 80 per cent of the protein in milk.
There are different types of casein in milk, beta- casein being one of these. Beta-casein makes up 30 per cent of the protein in milk and comes in two forms – A1 and A2. The difference in the A1 and A2 beta-casein being an amino acid – at the 67th position.
Most cows produce a mix of both A1 and A2 beta-casein in their milk, however there is a select group of cows that naturally produce only A2 protein and no A1 protein – which (you guessed it) is where a2 milk is sourced from.
Research indicates that a peptide known as BCM-7 is released when we digest A1 containing milk and not A2 milk. It has been suggested that the BCM-7 peptide may have some effects on our gastrointestinal tract such as bloating, gas, softer stools, abdominal pain and stool frequency.
However, there are limited human studies that have proven this theory and, interestingly, of the few studies available most have been funded by the a2 Milk Company.
Is a2 milk beneficial for those who suffer from lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is a common cause of abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, loose stools and constipation. Both A1 and A2 milk contain the same amount of lactose, so a2 milk is not an appropriate option.
Another, group of people who can be troubled by dairy are those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.
Some symptoms can be attributed to lactose fermenting in the bowel – again a2 milk would not benefit this group of people as it contains lactose.
So did I ‘feel the difference’ drinking this milk?
There weren’t any significant taste changes between the a2 and my standard low fat milk, nor did I notice any change in bowels/bloating/gas!
What I did notice was the price difference with the a2 milk setting me back almost double the price of my standard milk.
Overall, a2 milk is pricey product which, at the present, doesn’t look like it warrants the extra dosh you spend for it at the supermarket for it.
There needs to be more research done in this area, however if you suffer from bloating, gas, and altered bowels and are willing to pay extra it could be worth a try for some people.
*Abbey Billing is NZ Registered Dietitian