Got (the right) milk? Unpacking the A1/A2 milk controversy
Perhaps one of the most controversial dietary topics amongst whole foodies today, aside from grain, is cow’s milk.
More people are choosing to culture their milk instead of buying commercial. Learn more about Body Ecology’s easy-to-use Kefir Starter to find out why.
On one hand, there are the die-heart supporters — the Weston Price, Sally Fallon, and Tom Cowan followers who consider raw milk a curative for a host of ailments, from allergies to heart disease.
On the other, there are those that say all types of milk, regardless of it being raw, is not meant for human consumption. These folks point out that human beings are the only mammals that still consume milk after infancy, and the digestive characteristics of a calf are very different than that of a human’s — hence, not an appropriate fit.
Those who advocate drinking raw milk are also in contention with supporters of pasteurization. Within pasteurized varieties, one finds consumers of both commercial and commercial organic types of milk. A debate has also grown amongst the raw milk community over A1 and A2 cows. Then, there are those that prefer to drink only kefir milk.
The following article will give you a brief overview and dissemination of what these various identities/types of milk are and some of the pros and cons attributed to them.
Does milk really do your body good? Which types of milk are better?
Let’s compare the different types of milk:
1. Commercial milk.
Cows fed GMO grain, pumped up with antibiotics and hormones, and kept in subpar, inhumane conditions produce commercial milk that is by far the easiest variety to consider unhealthy for consumption. That this milk is devoid of nutrients is one factor; however, many whole food activists and nutritionists consider it actually to be harmful to one’s health.
What’s more is that:
- It lacks any of its original, fresh creamy taste that was the stamp of cow’s milk when it first was discovered as a consumable.
- Some who are accustomed to fresh-farmed raw milk say they can even taste the chemicals in commercial milk.
- Finally, the milk is put through the controversial processes of pasteurization and, often, homogenization.
Harmful features attributed to commercial milk include:
1. Changes in composition of the fats, especially the CLA (conjugated linoleic acids) content due to a grain as opposed to a nature-intended grass diet.
4. Pesticide content.
5. Unknown but suspected and far-reaching negative effects of ingesting growth hormones and antibiotics given to the cow and transferred to the milk.
With little taste or nutrient value and imbued with unhealthy additives, one might readily avoid this variety — let alone question the very point of consuming it.
Pasteurization: While pasteurization kills harmful bacteria, it also renders milk a processed food. Some will go so far as to say a “dead” food. According to one study, “Pasteurization was also found to affect the hematogenic and growth-promoting properties of the special milk (raw milk from specially fed cows, whose milk did not produce nutritional anemia – whereas commercially pasteurized milk did)…”1
Here are some facts about pasteurized milk:
1. Alters milk’s amino acids lysine and tyrosine, making the whole complex of proteins less available.
2. Alters milk’s mineral components, such as calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur, as well as many trace minerals, making them less available.
3. Completely changes the structure of the milk proteins (denaturization) into something far less than healthy.
4. Depletes milk of its most vital qualities.
5. Destroys 20 percent of the iodine found in raw milk.
6. Destroys all the enzymes in milk.
7. Destroys the Wulzen or anti-stiffness factor, which is found to protect against calcification of the joints — degenerative arthritis — as well as hardening of the arteries, cataracts, and calcification of the pineal gland.
8. Does not guarantee cleanliness (outbreaks of Salmonella from contaminated pasteurized milk have been reported in recent decades).
9. Encourages growth of harmful bacteria.
10. Lacking beneficial bacteria; in time, pasteurized milk will putrefy, while raw milk turns sour yet is still considered tasteful by some.
11. Leaves milk devoid of any protective mechanism should undesirable bacteria inadvertently contaminate the supply.
12. May adopt the flavor of its cardboard casing.
13. May cause constipation.
14. May have added chemicals to suppress odor and restore taste. Synthetic vitamin D2 or D3 is added — the former is toxic and linked to heart disease, while the latter is difficult to absorb.
15. Produces nutritional anemia.
16. Promotes rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids and destruction of vitamins:
- Destroys part of the vitamin C found in raw milk, often by 50 percent.
- Additional vitamin loss usually up to 80 percent.
17. Renders the major part of calcium found in raw milk insoluble, frequently leading to rickets, bad teeth, and nervous troubles. (As Tom Cowan states when contrasting pasteurized milk versus raw: “Sufficient calcium content is vital to children; and with the loss of phosphorus also associated with calcium, bone and brain formation suffer serious setbacks.”2)
18. Robs milk of its natural, rich, creamy taste.
19. Robs milk of its nutrient-dense creamy top.
20. Some evidence that pasteurization alters lactose, making it more readily absorbable. This, and the fact that pasteurized milk puts an unnecessary strain on the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes, may explain why milk consumption in civilized societies has been linked with diabetes.
21. Turns the sugar of milk, known as lactose, into beta-lactose. This is far more soluble and, therefore, more rapidly absorbed in the system, rendering the milk drinker hungry sooner.
Turns out an effective, nutritious, easily-digestible, great-tasting pea protein powder is a thing.
2. Organic milk.
Organic milk may include cows fed primarily on a grass-fed diet, pastured with plenty of space to exercise. However, the stamp “organic” doesn’t ensure it’s a product of sustainability or environmentally-sound practices.
John Robbins (The Food Revolution) was one of the first to voice concern about organic milk producers that weren’t living up to this image.3 He stated that Horizon Dairy keeps their cows in dry feedlots where there is little, if any, grass. This was supported in a sense when a concerned consumer wrote to Horizon questioning the conditions of their farm, and Horizon responded by saying that, “Although we do not include ‘outside grass’ as a standard part of their diets, the cows certainly may graze on grasses while outside.”
According to Robbins, this is misleading, as there is hardly grass on the feedlots from which they can graze. Much like the egg industry, while “organic” may include happy pastured cows, it’s not the prerequisite to obtaining “organic” status. On large farms like Horizon, the cows are separated from their calves and then milked three to four times daily to obtain the milk meant for their babies and, thus, taken to sale.
In this sense, the ethics of large-scale milk production, organic or not, are questionable.
It’s important to note that:
- Some organic milk producers supplement their cows’ diets with grain, hay, corn, silage, and water, particularly in colder months.
- It’s assumed the feed is organic, the hay and grass devoid of pesticides, and the water from a clean source.
- Organic cow’s milk also comes from cows not treated with hormones or antibiotics.
Homogenization: Both commercial non-organic and organic types of milk offer a homogenized variety. Homogenization denatures the natural fat in milk. There is no nutritional value in this process, and in fact, it has been linked to heart disease.
You might then ask, “So, why’s it done?” The reason is purely for aesthetics. Naturally, fat rises to the top of fresh raw milk. Homogenization forces the milk, by extreme pressure, through tiny holes that break up the normally large fat molecules into tiny ones. In this denatured state, the fat molecules stay suspended in the milk.
Unfortunately, this unnatural fat is easily absorbed into the bloodstream, carrying with it the xanthine oxidase. In un-homogenized milk, the xanthine oxidase and large fat molecules are normally passed through the digestive tract, unabsorbed.
3. Raw milk.
Perhaps nothing is more food-fashionable today than the topic of raw milk. Whether you’re discussing the many benefits of the drink or are outraged by the FBI raids and arrests of raw milk farmers, raw milk has become the “It Girl” of the foodie world.
So, what’s the deal? Is it dangerous? Are the benefits worth the risks?
Statistically, there are no known data to support raw milk as being one of the more dangerous types of milk to drink, compared to pasteurized milk. In fact, some might say statistics point to raw milk as being safer than pasteurized. The crucial components that assure the safety of your milk are the condition of the animal and that of the farm. The milk should not only be safe but resistant to disease if the cow is healthy and the conditions sanitary.
Those who drink raw milk may also consistently build up a stronger immunity to pathogens.
A study on natural antiseptics in milk cites: “Human or cow milk added to an equal volume of agar did not support the growth or allowed only slight growth of B. diphtheriae Staph. aureus, B. coli, B. prodigiosus, B. pyocyaneus, B. anthracis, streptococci, and unidentified wild yeast.”
“The factors in human milk inhibiting bacterial growth (‘inhibins’) were inactivated by heating at 56 degrees C (pasteurization temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees C) for 30 minutes or by standing 12 to 24 days at 5 degrees C, but not by repeated freezing and thawing. The ‘inhibins’ in cow’s milk were not inactivated by heating at 80 degrees C for seven minutes but were destroyed by heating at 85 degrees C for seven minutes. Attempts have not been made to identify the natural antiseptics.”4
For a more in-depth look at the many types of milk, we suggest reading The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmidt.
Supposing you conclude it’s a safe bet to drink raw milk — what are the benefits?
- According to raw milk champions, Sally Fallon and Tom Cowan, prior to heating, milk is a living food rich in colloidal minerals and enzymes.
- “Milk proteins… carry vitamins and minerals through the gut into the bloodstream; they enhance the immune system and protect against disease,” says Fallon.
- All of these qualities are destroyed during pasteurization. “Once heated, milk becomes rotten, with precipitated minerals that can’t be absorbed (hence osteoporosis), with sugars that can’t be digested (hence allergies), and with fats that are toxic.”
Here are some of the benefits attributed to raw milk:
1. A potential increase in resistance to tuberculosis in children fed raw milk instead of pasteurized.
2. Contains beneficial bacteria, as well as lactic acids, that allow these beneficial bacteria to implant in the intestines.
3. Lactase that allows for the digestion of lactose.
4. Lactic-acid-producing bacteria that protect against pathogens.
5. Lipase that helps the body digest and utilize butterfat.
6. Phosphatase that allows the body to absorb the calcium from the milk.
7. Raw butterfat (raw milk left to sour), which has a cortisone-like factor that is heat-sensitive (destroyed by heat) and prevents stiffness in the joints. These enzymes help the body assimilate all bodybuilding factors, including calcium. That’s why those who drink pasteurized milk may suffer, nevertheless, from osteoporosis.
8. Stronger immune systems in children who drink raw milk with stronger immunity to asthma and eczema compared to those who are fed ordinary milk.
9. Used as a therapy in folk medicine (and in the Mayo Clinic) for centuries.
10. Used in the pre-insulin days to help treat diabetes, eczema, intestinal worms, allergies, and arthritis (contains cortisone-like factor for allergies and eczema).
4. Kefir milk.
Some people chose to culture their milk, and Body Ecology’s Kefir Starter is a good option for this. While the benefits of kefir milk are many, primarily the grains eat up the milk sugars (lactose) and make it easier to digest.
- The bacteria in the kefir raw milk are great for helping to rehab the gut lining and restore digestion.
- For those who fear they’re lactose intolerant, kefir shouldn’t be a problem as the lactose is consumed.
- This also lessens the sugar content for those who feel non-kefir milk contributes to weight gain.
A1 versus A2: So, you’re pretty sure you want to drink raw milk, not commercial or commercial organic milk. But there are more types of milk to consider.
Welcome to the A1 versus A2 cow debate. In brief, Dr. Tom Cowan, the “go-to” authority on raw milk and co-founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation backs Sally Fallon’s (Nourishing Traditions) statement that, quite frankly, “American’s are breeding the wrong kind of cow for milk consumption.”
Cowan states: “The black and white cows – Holsteins and Friesians – generally give milk that contains a small but significant amount of beta-casein type A1, which behaves like an opiate and which epidemiological studies have implicated in heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia.”
He goes onto explain that:
- There is an amino acid called BCM7 causing the opiate effect to both cows and humans.
- BCM7 is released in the GI tract of animals and humans who drink A1 cow milk, and it’s found in the blood and urine of these animals.
- In short, people who drink milk from A1 cows can be exposed to BCM7.
Please note, a respondent to Dr. Cowan’s intro, identifying himself as the editor for Woodford’s book, added that A1 milk can be procured from any herd, though it’s less common in non-Holstein or Friesian herds. Another respondent suggested that while Jerseys produce more A2 milk than Holsteins, they might also produce A1 milk.
Ultimately, the milk would need to be tested to determine its variety. This is a problem not only for raw milk but pasteurized types of milk as well. (Ultra-pasteurization or any heat process increases the release of BCM7 from A1 milk.)
BCM7 has been shown in research outlined in Cowan’s intro to Dr. Keith Woodford’s book, The Devil In The Milk, to cause neurological impairment in animals and people exposed to it, especially autistic and schizophrenic changes. BCM7 interferes with the immune response.2
As well, Dr. Cowan states, “BCM7 selectively binds to the epithelial cells in the mucus membranes (i.e., the nose) and stimulates mucus secretion.” He goes on to state, “…basically all American dairy cows have this mutated beta-casein and are predominantly A1 cows.” And that, “When you take A1 cow milk away and stimulate one’s own endorphins instead of the toxic opiate of BCM7, some amazing health benefits ensue.”
The good news: You may absorb less BCM7 if you have a healthy GI tract
Keep in mind, some people obviously tolerate it and feel that they benefit from drinking raw milk. Also, BCM7 isn’t found in types of milk like goat or sheep.
A2 milk cows are found in Africa, Asia, and Europe, and in what is playfully being attributed to as culinary snobbery, you should be safe eating raw cheese and dairy in France. Long ago, the French complained that A1 milk “tasted lousy” and have remained exclusively loyal to an A2 cow population.
- 1. Krauss, W. E., Erb, J.H. and Washburn, R. G., Studies on the nutritive value of milk II. The effect of pasteurization on some of the nutritive properties of milk, Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 518, page 11, January, 1933.
- 2. Woodford, Keith B., and Thomas Cowan. Devil in the Milk Illness, Health, and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009.
- 3. Robbins, John. Food Revolution. Conari Press, 2013.
- 4. Dold, H., Wizaman, E., and Kleiner, C., Z. Hyt. Inf., “Antiseptic in milk,” The Drug and Cosmetic Industry, 43,1:109, July 1938.