The benefits of milk on the human system are well known — drinking milk in Indian families has been a cultural practice right from the early times when every individual household also housed a cow from which fresh milk was sourced. However, there has been a shift in our milk consumption patterns with a multitude of options available today. A topic that is much discussed today is the benefits of A1 milk versus A2 milk.
What’s the difference?
In order to make a healthy decision, it is important to understand the difference between the two types of milk. A1 milk is the most abundantly available and, the most commonly consumed milk today. A1 milk is obtained from cows of Western origin like Holstein Friesian, Jersey etc. and yields large quantities of milk. A2 milk, on the other hand, is obtained from cows of Indian origin like Gir, Sahiwal etc. which may give relatively lesser milk.
Although both types of milk come from the same source that is the cow, there is a considerable difference in their chemical compositions. There is a difference in the ratios of lactose (carbohydrate component) and fatty acids (fat component) in both milks. However, it is the protein component in the milk that differentiates the two from each other in terms of quality. A1 milk has A1 type of protein (casein) and A2 milk has A2 type of protein (casein). This is important because the way the milk is broken down and metabolised in the system is different.
Due to the difference in availability, A1 milk is relatively cheaper and easier to find than A2 milk. However, recently there has been a difference in opinion about the health effects/benefits offered by each type of milk. There has been a growing preference for A2 milk because of its health benefits. One of the major reasons behind the spark of this discussion is the presence of BCM-7 (Beta-casomorphine-7) in A1 milk which is not present in A2 milk and has been held responsible for several undesirable health consequences.
When the body tries to breakdown casein in A1 milk, a chemical component called BCM-7 is released, which is the reason for morphine-like effects on the Central Nervous system. BCM-7 causes addiction towards milk, hence children prefer to consume milk all the time. Neuro disorders like cognitive disorders, which affect learning ability and aggravated symptoms of autism, are also caused by A1 milk, because of the presence of a morphine-like compound. Morphine effect causes constipation, hence, children who consume A1 milk are usually constipated. A1 milk protein has ‘Histidine’ at 67th position which is released to form Histamine (causing allergic reactions). As a result of this, kids tend to develop allergic dermatitis (allergy on skin), allergic rhinitis (running nose) allergic cough and asthma. Lipid and carbohydrate metabolism can get affected in children consuming A1 milk, leading to increased long-term risks of obesity and diabetes. Additionally, lactose intolerance is high with A1 milk. Fat and carbohydrate in A1 milk encourages the growth of unhealthy bacteria in human intestine, leading to reduced immunity in children. On the other hand, A2 milk encourages better immunity. Studies have shown that consuming A1 milk could negatively affect the immunohormonal system, and contribute to type 1 diabetes or heart disease. Benefits of A2 milk far outweigh the potential risks caused by A1 milk on the human body.
(The author is consultant, paediatrics, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru)