Milk. Does it do a body good? Is it bad? Once again, as with all things health related, it's really not that cut and dried. If you’ve been told or you believe you have a dairy sensitivity or if you're just curious about the ins and outs of milk, this article is worth a read...The topic of whether or not milk is actually good for you can be a very confusing one. Some health gurus call it the perfect food and some vilify it. Who’s right? As with most things that are confusing, the question is much more involved than it appears. Here’s some quick and easy science-geek information to help you decide whether milk is right for your body or not.

There are two main questions I always ask when I’m trying to decipher whether or not something will benefit my body. Where did it come from? How was it processed?

Where did it come from?

Believe it or not a cow is not a cow is not a cow. In other words, all cows are not created equally…therefore all milk is not created equally. 

Yep, that’s right, different cows produce different milk proteins. Some cows produce milk that contains a  beta-casein variant called A1 and some cows produce a beta-casein variant called A2.A1 beta-casein has a  higher correlation with disease whileA2 beta-casein has a higher correlation with health. So one question becomes does your milk product contain beta-casein variant A1 or A2?created equally.  

How can you tell the difference?

JerseyCowA2 Cows are ancient breeds or heritage breeds; Jersey’s, African, and Asian breeds that have pretty much the same genetic structure they have had for thousands of years. Jersey cows are the lovely doe-eyed brown cows you can see dotting the pastures across the country. They produce less milk but the quality is rich and hearty and full of collagen building proline.

holsteinA1 Cows are "newer" breeds like Holsteins and Friesians. Holsteins and Friesians are the black and white cows you can typically find pictured on your milk carton. They are more desirable by most conventional dairy farmers because they produce a much higher volume of milk. About 90% of the 

A2 cows should be your milk product go to…unfortunately, the type of cow is not listed on the ingredient list of a milk product so if you are really interested you will want to do a little research. For the most part, conventional dairies requiring high yield tend to rely on Holstein cows.

How was it processed?

There is plenty of controversy about the processing of milk. Raw milk maintains all of its enzymes and natural goodness making it the most beneficial to the body. That being said, it is extremely difficult to guarantee that raw milk has been handled in a way that keeps it pathogen-free and healthy for consumption. Raw milk is also illegal to sell in many states. If you are able to safely consume raw milk, the differences between A1 and A2 milk still applies and A2 milk would be your better option.

pasteurizedPasteurizing milk means heating it so that any bacteria or harmful pathogens are removed. The downside? Many of the good bacteria and enzymes are killed as well. 

Homogenizing milk means applying enough pressure to force the fat globules in the milk to break into smaller more uniform components. This is why homogenized milk never develops cream on the top and has a thicker or more viscous mouth-feel. The downside? Homogenizing increases the potential for an allergic reaction because of the protein laden fat molecules as well as decreases the actual milk flavor and increases potential for oxidation. Oxidative Xanthinea by-product of this process seems to contribute to cardiovascular disease.  are removed with the bad.

In my opinion, the healthiest option for milk and milk products, if you are unable to secure safe raw milk, is mildly pasteurized, non-homogenized A2 milk. Minimally processed yogurts, creams, and raw cheeses are my absolute go-to for delicious wellness.

The Science-geek version:

Continue reading if you want to be able to “wow” your friends with your crazy, geeky knowledge of milk proteins!!

The proteins and solids in milk are made up of casein and whey proteins. If you remember from high school science class a protein is made up of long chain amino acids connected by polypeptides. On the casein protein molecule at amino acid position #67 there is a variation in the structure. In cows that produce the A1 beta-casein variant, like Holstein cows, position 67 contains a histidine. In cows that produce A2 beta-casein variant, like Jersey cows, position 67 contains a proline. What makes this tiny variation such a big deal???

histidineHistidines are the foundational material for the creation of histamines in the human body. If you’ve ever had an allergy you probably took an anti-histamine to manage the symptoms. Your body uses histamines to respond from the cellular level to injury or insult from environmental influences. This is great for quick management of injury, it’s not so great if it’s a chronic and prolonged response.

ProlineProlines, on the other hand, are protein derivatives that contribute to building and maintaining collagen for healthy skin, bones, and connective tissue.

Research seems to demonstrate that consumption of dairy products that contain the A1 variant contributes to the risk of disease, including but not limited to heart disease, diabetes, and gastrointestinal issues. There is also research that correlates consumption of A1 dairy with schizophrenia and autism. It seems the culprit is a little peptide named BCM7 that gets produced in your gut when you consume A1 dairy. The more BCM7, the higher the contribution to disease. Processing milk seems to significantly increase the prevalence of BCM7 and therefore the potential for contributing to disease.

BCM7 does not appear to be a bi-product of A2 beta-casein consumption.

Based on this information you can see that much of the issue with milk consumption isn’t simply about milk, nor does it have anything to do with lactose tolerance or intolerance. Rather, it has to do with the presence of BCM7 in the digestive tract which is further stimulated by consumption of A1 milk which in essence creates the equivalent of an allergic or inflammatory response. Often people confuse this process with lactose intolerance but milk allergy is not at all the same as lactose intolerance.