A2 milk: sorting the facts

“a2 milkTM” has been available on the Australian market since March 2003. Regular milk contains many proteins, one of which is called beta-casein. A1 and A2 are the two most common forms of beta-casein, of which there are at least 12 genetic variants. Milk branded as “a2 MilkTM” contains only the A2 type of beta-casein and is produced by the a2 Milk CompanyTM who own intellectual property relating to the production and sale of A1 beta-casein free milk. Regular milk we buy in supermarkets contains a mixture of A2 and A1 beta-casein (about 60% A2 and 40% A1).

Occasionally stories in the media suggest that the A1 beta-casein in regular milk triggers symptoms of neurological conditions, and is associated with an increase in risk of diabetes and heart disease. These links are based on historical epidemiological studies, and some animal studies, with limited evidence from human studies, on the impact of A1/A2 proteins on these health conditions.

In 2009, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) reported that there is still limited scientific evidence available on the effects of both A1 and A2 proteins on disease risk and encouraged Australians to continue to regard milk as a safe and nutritious component of the diet for most people. To date, this recommendation has not changed though emerging research, which includes human studies, indicates that select consumer groups who limit dairy intake owing to digestive discomfort may be able to consume A1 beta-casein free milk without adverse effect.

The bottom line is that people have been drinking milk for at least 6,000 years. Research shows that milk is not only safe, but is also associated with a number of health benefits, from healthy bones and teeth, to assisting with weight control and also possibly helping to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Whilst there are studies to show there are potential benefits of A1 beta-casein free milk, specifically relating to digestion, we welcome more independent scientific studies being conducted in this area.

Australians can have full confidence that milk remains the healthy nutritious food it always was.

Smart Eating Tips for Milk

  • Milk is a safe and healthy food to drink. Aim to have three serves of reduced- or low-fat dairy foods every day to ensure you meet your recommended dietary intake
  • A serve of dairy is equal to: 250ml milk, 200g yoghurt or 40g cheese
  • Cows’ milk is not suitable as the main drink for infants before 12 months of age
  • Reduced- and low-fat milks are not suitable for children under two years of age because of their increased needs for energy and fat soluble vitamins
  • There are many different types of milk to choose from to suit your individual needs and preferences.

If you don’t like milk or have a true cows’ milk allergy or intolerance, consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) to discuss other ways get enough dietary calcium and other essential nutrients.