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A1 vs. A2 milk - are you fooled by propaganda?

For kids in India, drinking two glasses of milk a day was mandatory at our home, and skipping it was next to impossible! (courtesy Indian moms). But, the milk that we drink today has changed. It is quite daunting for a parent today, to find pure and natural food for their kids, including pure milk. Organic has become the new mandate in everything we consume.

And to take benefit of this demand, there is a whole new propaganda popping up on almost all social media platforms and newsgroups, “Should we consume A2 milk?”

Awareness level among people is rising these days. For what goes inside their food is important. But it should be backed by proven studies and research...

All the studies done to compare the digestive response of A2 Milk and conventional milk are funded by The A2 Milk Company Limited, New Zealand - Wikipedia

A2 milk company claims that milk containing A1 proteins are harmful, but a 2009 European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) review of scientific literature found there was insufficient evidence to prove that peptides in A1 milk have a negative effect on health - Wikipedia

In New Zealand it is illegal to make health claims about a food product without providing scientific evidence and registering the food as a medicine, and in November 2003 the New Zealand Commission advised that A2 milk company and its licensed A2 producers had agreed to amend the health claims in their promotional material following a warning from the commission. By end of 2003 the weakened A2 milk company had withdrawn the litigation - Wikipedia

Many lobbies with no stakes in cattle rearing have been undermining the benefits of crossbred cows. In recent years, there have also been attempts at pressurising the government to discourage crossbreeding by glorifying native cattle. False publicity has also been generated on the so-called harmful effects of milk produced by exotic breeds and crossbred cows - The Indian Express

If you favor family-farmed, locally sourced, hormone and antibiotic-free (i.e. organic) milk - as we believe all bovine milk drinkers should - there’s a good chance your milk may already be A2 - Forbes

So what is A2?

Milk is a good source of protein, there’s no denying that! The two major proteins in milk are casein and whey. Casein accounts for about 80 percent of the protein in milk. There are also different types of casein, one of which is called beta-casein. Beta-casein makes up about 30 percent of the protein in cow's milk. A1 and A2 are two variants of beta-casein.

The sole difference between the two being one of the 209 amino acids that make up the beta-casein proteins: a proline occurs at position 67 in the chain of amino acids that make up the A2 beta-casein, while in A1 beta-casein a histidine occurs at that position. Studies in humans have not consistently found that BCM-7 is formed in the human digestive system. BCM-7 can also be created during the fermentation of milk or through the process by which cheese is made; those same processes can also destroy BCM-7.

Scientists believe the difference originated as a mutation that occurred between 5000 and 10,000 years ago—as cattle were being taken north into Europe—when the proline at position 67 was replaced by histidine.

The Propaganda

For those who do not experience any problems with milk consumption, there is no evidence to suggest any benefit of drinking A2 milk over organic milk, which contains both the A1 and A2 proteins. There are still no strong evidences to prove the pros and cons of A2 milk.

Recently, the agriculture ministry has published reports suggesting that A1 milk can induce diabetes and coronary heart disease. All these are based on a faulty study conducted in early 1990s in Australia, whose findings were not accepted due to lack of scientific validity. Moreover, people all over the world have been consuming A1 milk for centuries, without any documented ill-effects. Such baseless publicity and its seeming endorsement by the government will only destabilize India’s dairy development, causing huge losses to our farmers. The situation is further being en-cashed by traders, who are selling A2 milk at 200-300 per cent higher prices, even while consumers have no means of verifying its quality - The Indian Express

Currently, over 80 per cent of cattle in India are owned by some 70 million small and marginal farmers, a majority of whom rear nondescript cows. With an efficient breeding programme for improving the progeny of such animals, these poor farmers can adopt dairy husbandry as a reliable livelihood avenue.

India’s annual milk production per cow is only 1,310 kg, as against the world average of 2,200 kg and way below the 9,314 kg for the US and 10,035 kg of Israel. Such low milk yields are mainly because about 60 per cent of our cattle are genetically eroded nondescript animals. These animals, having no specific breed characteristics, produce just 350-500 kg of milk over an average annual lactation cycle.

The danger is that in the absence of corrective action to counter misapprehensions over the safety and quality of milk from crossbred cows, farmers will start incurring huge output loss with native breeds and eventually leave the profession.

The benefits from crossbreeding have been demonstrated by BAIF Development Research Foundation, a Gandhian organisation, for over the past 50 years.


- By Rishu Agarwal (www.panoply.in)