A1 Vs A2 Milk
Milk is a great source of calcium and protein. Casein is the largest group of proteins found in milk which makes up about 80% of the total protein content. A2 cows are the earlier breeds of cows like the desi Indian cows or the African cows that produce this protein in their milk along with an amino acid called Proline. In the new hybrid breeds, the proline amino acid got converted to Histidine due to alteration of genes over the years. These are the A1 cows that include breeds like Holstein, Friesian and Ayrshire.
Proline is strongly bonded to a small protein called BCM 7, which prevents it from getting into the milk produced by A2 cows. On the other hand, Histidine holds a weak bond with BCM 7, so it is easily released in the GI tract of animals and can enter the human body on consumption of milk from A1 cows and interact with the digestive system and internal organs.
Why is it Harmful?
A group of Russian researchers have shown that BCM 7 does pass into the blood of babies who were fed infant formula which led to delayed psycho-motor (brain-to-muscle) development (as published in the International Journal ‘Peptides’). Another report, published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2012, indicates that it is associated as a risk factor for type-1 diabetes, coronary heart disease and mental disorders like autism and schizophrenia because it may enter your brain through blood. This tricky devil remains a mystery as most of the evidence is based on animal trials and these diseases have a wide range of contributing factors. A human clinical trial conducted at Curtin University in Australia did prove that there were significant differences in digestive symptoms between milks containing A1 and A2 beta-casein. It has been approved that certain unwanted proteins or peptides that do not naturally occur in the human body may cause digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome or a weak gut.
Sanjay Bhalla, Founder of 'The Way We Are' that sells A2 milk, makes it easy for us to understand, “A1 and A2 beta-casein are basically two types of proteins found in different milk varieties. BCM-7 is an opioid peptide that is released during the digestion of the protein found in A1 milk. Since it is not absorbed well by the human body, it may trigger adverse health effects. In New Zealand, there has been a clear distinction between two types of cows – the ones that give drinking milk and those that are known for draught power and used for ploughing, cheese-making or their meat. The Bos Indicus cow is the desi breed that produces the A2 milk with the good quality protein but it has been conveniently replaced by the high-yielding cross breed, popularly known as HF or Holstein Friesian in India which provides the A1 variety of milk. This is something you need to consider beyond the 'type' of milk.”
The History - Operation Flood
A little back story. It all began in 1970 when Operation Flood was launched by the National Dairy Development board which transformed India from a milk deficient nation into the largest milk producer in the world. The mission of the project was three-fold - increase production, boost rural production and offer fair prices to consumers.
The sad reality of the white revolution was that it led to cross-breeding with European cows and import of foreign hybrid breeds for higher yield in order to meet the goal of mass production. This has brought us to a situation today where the desi cow has become a dying breed in India. Imagine this - the Gir cow, which is a Gujarati breed, is now being imported from Brazil and the Brahmi Bull, which is another pure breed, is more popular in Australia. It’s ironic that people in these countries are drinking better quality milk from cows native to our country.
Anuradha Modi, Founder of Holy Cow Foundation which works for the economic sustainability of cows, has her own herd of cattle as she does not prefer buying milk from the markets, “If the Indian breed gives 8 liters of milk, the HF variety produces 15 to 20 litres of milk and that makes all the difference. In a bid to feed our growing population we have neglected our native breeds of cows whose milk was always considered to be medicinal. After so many years, we seem to have woken up to this reality and efforts are being made to conserve the native breeds of every region. For instance, Pathmeda in Rajasthan has over 1 lakh desi cows and besides milk, they sell skimmed milk powder to other states which is of the A2 variety. It is very important to know the source of the milk you’re drinking every day.”
Moreover, the management of cows is of great concern. At our farm, we have kept desi Gir, Sahiwal, Red Sindhi, Tharparkar, Kankrej and Ongole cows that are allowed to graze, soak in the sunlight and fed fodder cultivated at the farm.
"The desi Indian cow is a very unique species and needs to be conserved. You can recognize them because of the hump on their back and long horns. Studies have shown that the rays of sun enter the body of the cow through the hump which makes their milk, dung and urine medicinal. If they are not exposed to the sun, they will not get the Vitamin D required to produce calcium in milk. More and more people are going back to the milk procured from native breeds like Sahiwal from Punjab, Gir from Gujarat, and Tharparkar from Rajasthan."
"It has been found that A2 milk contains more Omega-3 fatty acids which are good for your health. In a country which is predominantly vegetarian, milk is a very important source of nutrition. You need to make the right choices to seek the best quality. If A1 milk makes you feel bloated or uncomfortable, it’s alright to make the switch, as a lot of people have reported that A2 milk is easier to digest ” says Sheela Krishnaswamy, President, Indian Dietetic Association.
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