With around 70% of people reporting some level of discomfort after consuming dairy products, there has been a surge in recent years of consumers looking for ways to enjoy their favourite milk or cheese and not feel the pain associated with lactose intolerance.
In recent years, scientists have been exploring the link between A2 milk and a decrease in the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
A2 milk has grown in popularity in recent years, and this has been partly attributable to the fact that many consumers self-report feeling better after drinking it, compared with regular milk.
So, is A2 milk all marketing hype, or is there really some benefit to drinking it? Can you drink A2 milk if you are lactose intolerant and not feel sick?
The short answer is maybe. The scientific evidence still has some catching up to do in terms of number of studies completed and the length of time, but the early signs are promising.
What is Lactose Intolerance?
If you’ve ever felt ill after consuming a milkshake, eaten cheese, or on your way to work after a morning bowl or cereal, there’s a good chance you have, to some degree, lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is pretty common, and is caused by an inability to fully digest the sugar (the lactose) in milk. Symptoms usually include nausea, gas and bloating, and in more extreme cases, diarrhea.
For most people diagnosed with lactose intolerance, management is quite simple and the majority of people don’t need to give up dairy, just consume less.
It’s also possible for sufferers to develop a resistance and build up a sort of immunity by consuming small amounts of dairy products each day - just enough so that they don’t feel too unwell.
Why Does A2 Milk Not Make Me Not Feel Sick?
While more research does need to be done to conclusively prove whether A2 can be drunk by those with lactose intolerance, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest it doesn’t produce the negative side effects regular milk does.
Natasha Murray, an accredited dietitian with the Dietitians Association of Australia, has a number of clients who report lower levels of discomfort from drinking A2 milk.
A2 milk is different from regular milk, and this difference is why scientists believe there are less side effects.
Around 3-4% of milk is made up of protein, and approximately 80% of that protein is made of casein, a slow-digesting dairy protein that is common as a health supplement. It’s especially popular in the health space as a nighttime protein shake as it’s slow releasing nature can help you feel fuller, for longer.
Of this casein, there are a number of different forms, but the two most common are:
At a molecular level, these two forms are almost identical. The main difference between the two forms comes down to a single amino acid - yet this difference leads to big changes.
A1 beta-casein, it has a histidine amino acid, and A2 beta-casein has a proline amino acid.
For most of us, this means nothing. But what this change in amino acids does is affect how the two proteins are broken down, and what happens to our bodies as we break it down.
When we break down A1 protein, the histidine amino acid, our bodies create a peptide called BCM-7 as a result. This peptide has been shown to affect gut movements and inflammation in animals, but so far no study has conclusively found these results to be replicated in humans.
In 2017, a study conducted in collaboration between the Liggins Institute and AgResearch found that, even though A2 milk still contains lactose, it was easier to digest and was about as effective as lactose-free milk in reducing some symptoms of lactose intolerance.
How Will I know If I’ll Still Feel Discomfort from A2 Milk?
This is where it gets a bit trickier, as everyone is different. Even those who participated in the few research studies had varying degrees of success with A2 milk.
Luckily, we have a solution for you. Did you know we offer free samples each weekend at the Farmers Markets we attend? This is the perfect opportunity for you to test if A2 will reduce any discomfort you might be experiencing when digesting milk.
Simply try a small sample, go about the rest of your shop, and, if you feel like A2 milk is improving your lactose tolerance, some back and pick up a bottle to take home. If you feel better after you’ve gone through the bottle, you know that A2 is for you!