Okea/Thinkstock Looking for news you can trust?Subscribe to our free newsletters. When my in-laws moved from India to the United States some 35 years ago, they couldn’t believe the low cost and abundance of our milk—until they developed digestive problems. They’ll now tell you the same thing I’ve heard a lot of immigrants say: American milk will make you sick. It turns out that they could be onto something.
An emerging body of research suggests that many of the 1 in 4 Americans who exhibit symptoms of lactose intolerance could instead be unable to digest A1, a protein most often found in milk from the high-producing Holstein cows favored by American and some European industrial dairies. The A1 protein is much less prevalent in milk from Jersey, Guernsey, and most Asian and African cow breeds, where, instead, the A2 protein predominates.
“We’ve got a huge amount of observational evidence that a lot of people can digest the A2 but not the A1,” says Keith Woodford, a professor of farm management and agribusiness at New Zealand’s Lincoln University who wrote the 2007 book Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health, and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk. “More than 100 studies suggest links between the A1 protein and a whole range of health conditions”—everything from heart disease to diabetes to autism, Woodford says, though the evidence is far from conclusive.
Holsteins, the most common dairy-cow breed in the United States, typically produce A1 milk. Sarahluv/Flickr For more than a decade, an Auckland-based company called A2 Corporation has been selling a brand of A2 milk in New Zealand and Australia; it now accounts for 8 percent of Australia’s dairy market. In 2012, A2 Corp. introduced its milk in the United Kingdom through the Tesco chain, where a two-liter bottle sells for about 18 percent more than conventional milk.
But critics write off the success of A2 Corp. as a victory of marketing over science. Indeed, a 2009 review by the European Food Safety Authority found no link between the consumption of A1 milk and health and digestive problems. So far, much of the research on the matter is funded by A2 Corp., which holds a patent for the only genetic test that can separate A1 from A2 cows. And in 2004, the same year that A2 Corp.
went public on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, Australia’s Queensland Health Department fined its marketers $15,000 for making false and misleading claims about the health benefits of its milk. The A1/A2 debate has raged for years in Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe, but it is still virtually unheard of across the pond. That could soon change: A2 Corp. recently announced plans to offer its milk in the United States in coming months.
In a letter to investors, the company claims that “consumer research [in Los Angeles] confirms the attractiveness of the A2 proposition.” The difference between A1 and A2 proteins is subtle: They are different forms of beta-casein, a part of the curds (i.e., milk solids ) that make up about 30 percent of the protein content in milk. The A2 variety of beta-casein mutated into the A1 version several thousand years ago in some European dairy herds.
Two genes code for beta-casein, so modern cows can either be purely A2, A1/A2 hybrids, or purely A1. Milk from goats and humans contains only the A2 beta-casein, yet not everyone likes the flavor of goat milk, which also contains comparatively less vitamin B-12—a nutrient essential for creating red blood cells. The A1 milk hypothesis was devised in 1993 by Bob Elliott, a professor of child health research at the University of Auckland.
Elliott believed that consumption of A1 milk could account for the unusually high incidence of type-1 diabetes among Samoan children growing up in New Zealand. He and a colleague, Corran McLachlan, later compared the per capita consumption of A1 milk to the prevalence of diabetes and heart disease in 20 countries and came up with strong correlations. Critics argued that the relationships could be explained away by other factors, such as diet, lifestyle, and latitude-dependent exposure to vitamin D in sunlight—and in any case started to fall apart when more countries were included.
Yet a 1997 study by Elliott published by the International Dairy Federation showed A1 beta-casein caused mice to develop diabetes, lending support to the hypothesis, and McLachlan remained convinced. In 2000, he partnered with entrepreneur Howard Paterson, then regarded as the wealthiest man on New Zealand’s South Island, to found the A2 Corporation. Starting in 2003, A2 Corp. sold milk in the United States through a licensing agreement, but pulled out in 2007 after it failed to catch on.
Susan Massasso, A2 Corp.’s chief marketing officer, blamed mistakes by the company’s US partner, but declined to elaborate. But now the market dynamics may be changing in A2 Corp.’s favor as compelling new research on the A1/A2 debate grabs headlines in the Australian and UK press. When digested, A1 beta-casein (but not the A2 variety) releases beta-casomorphin7 (BCM7), an opioid with a structure similar to that of morphine.
Studies increasingly point to BCM7 as a troublemaker. Numerous recent tests, for example, have shown that blood from people with autism and schizophrenia contains higher-than-average amounts of BCM7. In a recent study, Richard Deth, a professor of pharmacology at Northeastern University in Boston, and his postdoctoral fellow, Malav Trivedi, showed in cell cultures that the presence of similarly high amounts of BCM7 in gut cells causes a chain reaction that creates a shortage of antioxidants in neural cells, a condition that other research has tied to autism.
The study, underwritten in part by A2 Corp., is now undergoing peer review in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. The results suggest that drinking A2 milk instead of A1 milk could reduce the symptoms of autism, Trivedi says, but, he adds: “There’s a lot more research that needs to be done to support these claims.” Researchers without ties to A2 Corp. are also lending increasing support to the A1 hypothesis.
One peer-reviewed study conducted at the National Dairy Research Institute in India, published in October in the European Journal of Nutrition, found that mice fed A1 beta-casein overproduced enzymes and immune regulators that other studies have linked to heart disease and autoimmune conditions such as eczema and asthma. The leading explanation for why some people but not others may react poorly to A1 milk implicates leaky gut syndrome—a concept that got its start in alternative medicine circles but has been gaining wider traction in the medical establishment.
The idea is that that loose connections in the gut, like tears in a coffee filter, allow rogue proteins such as BCM7 to enter the body and run amok. The body brings in immune cells to fight them off, creating inflammation that manifests as swelling and pain—a telltale symptom of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and diabetes, and autism. The A2-producing Normande is a popular breed in France.
dominiqueb/Flickr Though many adults may suffer from leaky guts, the condition is normal in babies less than a year old, who naturally have semi-permeable intestines. This may pose a problem when they’re fed typical cow-milk formula. A 2009 study documented that formula-fed infants developed muscle tone and psychomotor skills more slowly than infants that were fed (A2-only) breast milk. Researchers in Russia, Poland, and the Czech Republic have suggested links between BCM7 in cow milk formula and childhood health issues.
A 2011 study implicates BCM7 in sudden infant death syndrome: the blood serum of some infants that experienced a “near-miss SIDS” incident contained more BCM7 than of healthy infants the same age. Capitalizing on those findings, A2 Corp. also sells an A2-only infant formula, a2PLATINUM, in Australia, New Zealand, and China. The mainstream dairy industry in the United States may be more interested in the A1/A2 debate than it lets on.
For example, US companies that sell bull semen for breeding purposes maintain information on the exact A1/A2 genetics of all of their offerings. And breeders have already developed A2 Holsteins to replace the A1 varieties typically used in confined agricultural feeding operations. “There is absolutely no problem in moving across to A2 and still having these high-production cows,” says Woodford, the Devil in the Milk author, who has in more recent years worked as a consultant for A2 Corp.
But the transition to A2 milk would take a bit of money and a lot of time—probably about a decade, Woodford believes. “The mainstream industry has always seen it as a threat,” he says, “whereas another way of looking at it is, hey, this can actually bring more people to drinking milk.” For now, here in the United States, the best way to get milk with a higher-than-average A2 content is to buy it from a dairy that uses A2-dominant cow breeds such as the Jersey, the Guernsey, or the Normande.
In Northern California, for example, Sonoma County’s Saint Benoit Creamery specifies on its milk labels that it uses “pastured Jersey cows.” The heirloom A2 cow breeds tend to be hardy animals adapted to living on the open range and not producing a ton of milk, but what they do produce is comparatively thicker, creamier, and, many people say, a lot tastier than what you’ll typically find at the supermarket.
“People taste our milk and they say: ‘Oh my gosh, I haven’t tasted milk like this since I left home,'” and came to America, says Warren Taylor, the owner of Ohio’s Snowville Creamery, which has been phasing out A1 cows from its herds. For the time being, the switch to A2 milk “is going to be for the small producers—people like us,” he adds. “It’s just a part of our responsibility.
”See Also: Milk Dairy Cow
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So, earlier this week after finishing off a half gallon carton of almond milk, I happened to glance at the ingredients label as I was tossing it the recycling bin. I had Almond Breeze, the kind you can find in any grocery store and this is what I found: Ingredients: almondmilk (filtered water, almonds), calcium carbonate, tapioca starch, sea salt, potassium citrate, carrageenan, sunflower lecithin, natural flavor, vitamin a palmitate, vitamin d2 and d-alpha-tocopherol (natural vitamin e).
source Now, I don’t know what any of that crap is except for almonds, water and sea salt (by the way, what the HECK is “natural flavor”??) so I decided right then and there to make my own. I had some almonds in my pantry so I just got to soaking them right away. I had heard of making your own before, but for some reason it intimidated me, like it would be hard to do or something. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
And I posted a picture on Instagram and a lot of you were interested so I thought I would walk you through exactly how easy it is. A little side note: I’m not against dairy or dairy-free, but I do try to limit it in my diet for personal health preferences. I don’t need regular cow’s milk to get protein or calcium since I get it from other sources and I like that almond milk has fewer calories, is naturally low in fat and I don’t have to worry about hormones or antibiotics or about where the almond was raised, like with cow’s milk.
Not pictured here is a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, which you should add since it breaks down the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors and cultures beneficial enzymes in the almonds. I don’t really know what that means, but a trusted source says to do it, so I figure it can’t hurt. If it didn’t take so long to soak the almonds, you could call this a 5 minute ordeal when all is said and done. It’s just a matter of putting your soaked almonds in a blender with water, letting it blend for a minute or two and then straining – either with cheese cloth or a nut milk bag.
I bought mine here and bonus: it came with a hand written note thanking me for my order. Here’s proof. Also, one perk of making your own almond milk is that you can put it in adorable glass jars that maybe you’ve bought (one too many of…) and not known what to do with. Not like I would know. And this is better for the environment too so you can say you’re GOING GREEN! Mason jars work too.
Here’s the full recipe and how to, although it’s almost laughable at how easy it is that you won’t need a recipe after you make it one time. Ingredients & Equipment 1 cup raw almonds 8-10 cups of water 1/2 tsp. salt nut milk bag or cheesecloth blender Optional: natural sweeteners like stevia, dates, honey, maple syrup, vanilla. Instructions Soak almonds in 2-3 cups of water and salt for at least 12 hours.
Give the almonds a good rinse and toss in a blender with 8 cups of water, or however much your blender will hold. You may need to do a couple of batches if you don’t have a big enough blender, but that’s okay. Let the blender run on high for a minute or two, until you can see it’s creamy and mixed well (the almonds should be teeny tiny little bits) Grab your cheese cloth or nut milk bag and pour your almond mixture through it.
Squeeze thoroughly until no moisture comes through, but for the love of god DO NOT THROW AWAY THE ALMOND PULP!!! Because you can make almond flour with it, which is super expensive, is gluten free, is a tremendous alternative to wheat flours, is very nutritious and a great way to use up every last bit of those healthy almonds. Don’t throw it away. Just throw it in the fridge until you get the time to dry it out (I’ll explain that further below).
If sweetening your milk, put it back in the blender (rinse it first) and add whatever natural sweetener you like. For me, I like to keep the whole batch plain and just sweeten a glass as I go if I feel like having it sweet. Yields: about 2 quarts of milk A few tips and tricks: Your milk will separate after a little while in the fridge. This is totally normal, just give it a good shake. Your almond milk will last about 5-7 days in the fridge.
To make coffee creamer, just use less water (maybe half) and add whatever sweeteners and spices you want. I’m thinking next fall I’ll make some with pumpkin spice, vanilla and stevia. Yum! I bet you Someone asked me if this saves money and after really looking in to it, I can say that YES it definitely can if you make sure to use the almond pulp by making flour with it – then you save lots because that stuff is like $10/lb.
Otherwise, you are probably paying about the same (maybe a little more), but you’re also cutting out any unnecessary additives, processing and preservatives for a much healthier alternative – how long do you think it took that almond milk to get from the factory to your refrigerator? I’m not some crazy DIY almond milk activist that is judging anyone if you don’t make your own – people are busy, especially moms so I get it.
But if you want to make your own, know that it is easy and worthwhile. How to Make Almond Flour (also called almond meal) When you strain all the liquid out with your cheese cloth, you’ll have the pulp left over, pictured above. This has lots of nutrition left and can be made in to flour that you can use in baked goods to make healthier, clean versions of your favorite foods. Or make french macarons (and then send them to me).
Again, this is super easy, but just takes a little bit of time. If you don’t have time right then to make the flour, just put it in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days or even freeze it if you know it will be a while before you can dry it out. Or send it to me because I won’t let it go to waste. Either way, it would be sad to throw it out so don’t. Instructions Spread the almond mixture out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the oven at the lowest setting (for me, it was 170 degrees) for a few hours.
You can leave the oven door open just a crack to release any moisture and help it dry out faster. Mine was done after 3 hours. Once it’s dry, let it cool and pop it in a food processor or blender to get a finer texture. So that’s it! Nothing complicated or sophisticated about it, just takes waiting for the almonds to soak and then bake. I put my almond meal in the oven in the morning, then went to the gym and ran a few errands and by the time I was home it was ready (my husband was home, just in case something happened).
So are you going to make your own almond milk and flour too? I hope so! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!