A2 Milk Update: Warning to Lactose Intolerant

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By Steve Carper – A2 milk is milk that contains more of the A2 beta casein protein. This raises the possibility that people with casein allergies to regular cow's milk might have lessened reactions. Developed in New Zealand and Australia, The original Foods Company started marketing A2 milk through Hy-Vee stores in the midwest, as I reported in A2 Milk Hits America.  Only the protein content of the milk has changed, so I was horrified to read Nebraska Farm Produces Milk For Lactose Intolerant, which Omaha ABC affiliate KETV sent out as a press release and was picked up by dozens of websites.

A Nebraska farm has made a breakthrough in providing milk for the lactose intolerant.

Studies suggest that more 30 million Americans are lactose intolerant, but some Firth dairy farmers said they have a product that many of those people will be able to digest.

It's called A-2 milk, and is made by special cows that produce a unique kind of protein. These cows are pinpointed through DNA testing. About 30 percent of the animals produce the protein exclusively.

The mistake does not appear to be a reporting error on the part of the station as I first believed. Amazingly, a spokesman for The Original Foods Company makes the lactose intolerance claim on the video news segment that first reported the piece.

I know of absolutely nothing in any of the claims or studies about A2 milk that would justify telling people with lactose intolerance that they can tolerate this milk better in any way than any other cow's milk. Its lactose content is presumably identical. I am warning people in the strongest possible terms not to believe this claim.

The home site of A2 milk, a2australia.com.au says straightforwardly:

Q. Does A2 Milk™ contain Lactose?
A. Yes, A2 Milk™ contains Lactose.

The only evidence I can find for the effect A2 milk has on lactose intolerance is anecdotal, from a question and answer forum on abc.net.au, an Australian television network that is nor affiliated with the U.S. network ABC. Dr Corrie McLachlan, chief executive of the A2 Corporation, was a panelist on a show about A2 milk, and later wrote in an online Q and A session:

Interestingly we have had in e-mails from several mothers whose children are allergic to milk or lactose intolerant. They had no such effects with A2 milk.

We also have evidence coming in that what is called lactose intolerance may be associated with A1 protein rather than lactose.

He provides no substance for this astonishing claim. I'm not surprised because I have never heard this claim before. It would contradict every piece of medical evidence we have about the etiology (cause) of lactose intolerance.

Despite repeating the claim several times, Dr. McLachlan's words are not even backed up by the website of A2 milk's official Australian licensee, Fairbrae Farms:

It does however appear quite likely, that many people who have previously been diagnosed as lactose intolerant may actually have been protein intolerant, in particular, to a1 beta casein.

This is certainly a possible mistake of diagnosis, as it is easy to mistake the gastrointestinal effects of a milk protein allergy for the gastrointestinal effects of lactose intolerance. I know of no study that suggests how widespread a mistaken diagnosis, or belief in the case of self-diagnosis, this might be, but it is possible. It is not, however, in any way the same claim made by Dr. McLachlan.

I must note that the online forum I referred to above took place in 2003. Since that time Dr. McLachlan has died from cancer and can no longer defend his words. However, in those four years apparently not a single other source has emerged in the medical literature that would give credence to his claim that lactose intolerance is caused by protein, or that A2 milk is well-tolerated by those with lactose intolerance.

Please approach A2 milk with the caution you would any other milk. Until and unless proven otherwise, A2 milk is a source of as much lactose as any other milk and should be treated – or avoided – accordingly.

Steve Carper heads up Planet Lactose, a blog updated daily with information for lactose intolerant, milk allergic, and vegan consumers.  Visit Planet Lactose for updates on the A2 milk situation.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Senior Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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