a2 Milk®: What Does the Research Really Say?

By Andrew Fink, Graduate Student in Nutrition Sciences, Baylor University on 11/14/2018

Tags: Protein, Milk Alternatives, Research

a2 Milk®, a relative newcomer to the ever-expanding health food market, has built its brand around the slogan “100% real milk that’s easier on digestion.” My interest in a2 Milk® spiked when a cursory internet search revealed numerous reports and food blogs touting the effectiveness of this new milk along with testimonials of overjoyed customers converted from the alleged suffering of drinking traditional cow’s milk. So, what is the difference? Is it worth the price markup?

What is a2 Milk®?

a2 Milk® comes from a specific breed of cow. Most milks contain a mix of A1 and A2 beta-casein, two common forms of milk protein. According to the a2 Milk CompanyTM, a2 Milk® contains A2 beta-casein but not A1 beta-casein. The original a2 Milk® hypothesis in the 1990s was based on the idea that traditional milk – containing a mix of A1 and A2 beta-casein – may be associated with Type 1 diabetes and heart disease risk, and that a2 Milk® was not. These concerns over traditional milk have not been substantiated by science. In fact, milk and milk products are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes in adults. The current scientific hypothesis shared by the makers of a2 Milk ® suggests it provides unique benefits to digestion.

What are the digestive claims?

It is suggested there may be a benefit – potentially improved digestive function and, ultimately, reduced inflammation – for some people based on how the A2 beta-casein is digested versus how A1 beta-casein is digested. While it may be an interesting scientific theory, at this point, the a2 Milk® concept is just that – a theory. There are currently only two studies with limited evidence, which is not sufficient scientific support for the proposed mechanisms and beneficial effects of a2 Milk® versus traditional A1-containing milk. What we do know is that traditional cow’s milk and a2 Milk® provide the same nine essential nutrients and health benefits.

Will it help my symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the naturally occurring sugar in milk: lactose. Adjusting the prevalence of A1 and A2 milk proteins has nothing to do with the lactose concentrations in milk. If you are truly lactose intolerant, a2 Milk® will not treat your discomfort.

Traditional cow’s milk is still recommended for individuals with lactose intolerance. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-20 recommend low-fat and fat-free dairy foods – such as milk, cheese and yogurt – as a part of healthy eating styles and acknowledges the body of science that has linked the consumption of dairy foods to numerous health benefits. In addition, dairy foods have been linked to improved bone health in children and adolescents. There are many solutions for those with lactose intolerance to keep dairy in the diet, including dairy foods naturally low in lactose, and lactose-free milk.

What about milk allergies?

Because a2 Milk® contains all of the proteins you would find in traditional cow’s milk, minus the A1 beta-casein, people with a true milk allergy (an allergy to the proteins in milk) are advised to avoid all milk and milk products, including a2 Milk®.

Should I try a2 Milk®?

Check out the price and measure the facts – then make your decision. Keep in mind, just because there is another option doesn’t mean the alternative is bad. Good old-fashioned milk is still essential to a balanced diet. The most important consideration is to choose the best milk for your health and your budget.