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What is A2 milk (and why should you care)?

WOMAN GROCERY SHOPPING
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Experts are investigating whether a genetic mutation has made cow's milk potentially harmful for human health.

More and more, it seems that my friends and family are eschewing cow’s milk. Some of them are replacing it with nut milk or coconut milk, and some are foregoing milk altogether. But they all claim to feel much better since they stopped drinking it.

As far as I’m concerned, you can pry whole milk and cheese out of my cold, dead hands. But there was a time when I was also trying to change up my dairy routine — first I replaced grocery-store milk with raw milk, then I cut out diary altogether. And I’ll be honest — I didn’t notice one iota of difference, despite being very convinced by the science behind the raw milk trend. But that was six or seven years ago, before the great “A1 vs A2” milk debate began.

For at least the last six months, I’ve been noticing an increase in discussion about A1 milk and A2 milk with zero idea what the difference is — and frankly, not much concern. But I finally got sick of not knowing what people were talking about when they threw that reference into a conversation, so I consulted Google, PhD.

According to the Huffington Post (the most reputable source I could find, tyvm), A1 cows have a recent genetic mutation that makes milk bad for humans … and lucky for us, the US raises mostly A1 cows.

The proline in A2 milk has a strong bond to another small protein called BCM 7, which helps keep it from being released.

Histidine (the mutated protein), on the other hand, only weakly holds on to BCM 7, so it is liberated in the GI tract of animals and humans who drink A1 cow milk. Now, BCM7 is a powerful opiate that can have a very detrimental impact on your body.

As discussed in these two articles from the NY Times and the Medical Hypothesis, it is likely the cause of increased phlegm production in your digestive- and respiratory tract, which can worsen upper respiratory problems.

Oh yeah. And it gets worse: BCM7 has been implicated in more serious diseases like Type 1 diabetes and heart disease.

So that’s the bad news. The good news it that it’s very simple to switch the type of milk a herd produces, it’s just a matter of putting pressure on the dairy industry to do so. And the best way to create a new supply is to increase demand, so we as consumers just need to start selectively shopping for A2 milk (or turning to goat’s milk, which doesn’t carry BCM 7). While A1 milk is the standard in the US and is not labeled, A2 milk will be labeled and can usually be found in grocery stores that are more dedicated to carrying healthier products and sell locally sourced foods.

But before you go searching high and low for A2 milk or choking back goat’s milk on your Cheerios, be aware that the science on the difference between A1 and A2 milk isn’t settled. As always, your best bet is to listen to your body — if you can tolerate A2 milk but not regular milk, it’s worth making the switch for your health. If you don’t notice a difference between the two, you may want to stick with your regular milk. And if you can’t tolerate milk at all, don’t drink it! Our bodies can tell us a lot about what we eat and drink; we just have to learn to listen.

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