As many of you know, I do not recommend drinking pasteurized milk of any kind because the pasteurization process, which entails heating the milk to a temperature of 145 degrees to 150 degrees F and keeping it there for at least half an hour, completely changes the structure of the milk proteins into something far less than healthy.
Pasteurized cow’s milk is the number one allergic food in the United States. It has been associated with a number of symptoms and illnesses including:
Diarrhea, cramps, bloating and gas
Recurrent ear infections and colic in infants and children
Type 1 diabetes
The healthy alternative to pasteurized milk is raw milk, which is an outstanding source of nutrients including beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus acidolphilus, vitamins and enzymes, and it is, in my estimation, one of the finest sources of calcium available.
Raw milk is generally not associated with any of the above health problems, and even people who have been allergic to pasteurized milk for many years can typically tolerate and even thrive on raw milk.
Yet, there are those people who still have trouble drinking raw milk, and like Dr. Thomas Cowan, I have wondered if there could be a missing piece to the puzzle.
That piece, it turns out, may very well be related to the type of cow your milk comes from.
A1 Vs. A2 Cows: What's the Difference?
The type of proteins in milk, and the proportion of various proteins, varies depending on the breed of cow and the type of animal (sheep, goat, cow, etc.).
One of the major proteins in cow's milk is casein, the predominant variety of which is called beta-casein. In older breeds of cows, such as Jersey, Asian and African cows (called A2 cows), the beta-casein contains an amino acid called proline.
In newer breeds of cows like Holstein (A1 cows), however, the proline has mutated into an amino acid called histidine.
This is important because beta-casein also contains an amino acid called BCM-7, which is a powerful opiate linked to negative health effects. Well, the proline that exists in A2 cows has a strong bond to BCM-7, which helps keep it out of the cows' milk. The histidine in the newer A1 cows, however, has a weak hold on BCM-7, which allows it to get into the milk, and also into the people who drink the milk.
So the theory goes that by drinking milk from A1 cows, which are the predominant cows used for dairy products in the United States, you're exposed to BCM-7, which has been linked to:
This issue has recently been evaluated by both Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). FSANZ had this to say:
"FSANZ has considered the very limited scientific evidence available on comparative health effects of the two milks and discussed the issue internally and at Board level. FSANZ has noted that further research is in progress and concluded that, while there are some interesting hypotheses being examined, it could not proceed with regulatory action on the basis of the available evidence."
EFSA, meanwhile, which released a review of the issue in February 2009, stated:
"Based on this review, EFSA concluded that a cause and effect relationship is not established between the dietary intake of BCM7, related peptides or their possible protein precursors and non-communicable diseases. Consequently, a formal EFSA risk assessment is not recommended.”
It will be interesting to see whether further research will prompt a different response, but remember that A1 milk is common in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe, so it will take a major overhauling of the dairy industry - and a revolution of sorts to overtake their corporate interests - to convert herds to produce A2 milk (a move that is actually very simple and requires just a simple test of beta-casein to do).
Depending on where you live, A2 milk may not be hard to find at all. In fact, herds in much of Asia, Africa, and parts of Southern Europe still produce primarily A2 milk. If you live in the United States, New Zealand, Australia or other areas of Europe, however, you'll need to look a bit harder.
To find A2 milk, the type that has not been associated with illness and instead appears to have numerous health benefits, look for milk that comes from Jerseys, Asian and African cows. The best way to do this may be to get to know a farmer directly and find out what type of cow is used. And as always, stick to milk that is raw, NOT pasteurized.
Raw goat and sheep's milk is another option, as these types of milk do not contain BCM-7.
On other point Woodford's book points out is that people with healthy digestive tracts do not absorb as much BCM-7. So this is yet another incentive to keep your gut in tip-top condition by eating healthy and getting plenty of good bacteria, either by eating naturally fermented foods or taking a high-quality probiotic — especially if you enjoy drinking raw milk, and are not sure whether it comes from A1 or A2 cows.