If you’ve given up dairy due to acute signs of that dreadful thing called lactose intolerance, one company might have a cure for your symptoms. That’s right—you just might be able to binge eat a block of cheddar again and chug a tall glass of milk.
The a2 Milk Company is on a mission to bring dairy back into people’s lives. The company believes that many people with symptoms of lactose intolerance are not actually resistant to lactose, but are actually experiencing digestive problems due to the a1 protein present in milk. a1 is a genetic mutation that emerged in European dairy herds thousands of years ago. Since a1 is only associated with high dairy producing breeds (think cows, not women who produce a2 breast milk) the mutation spread throughout cattle in Europe, as well as the U.S.
The good news is that some “old world” cows still exist today in Africa and Asia, where the genetic mutations failed to be as widespread. These cows produce milk with the a2 protein, and these are the dairy sources a2 Milk Company uses. With DNA testing, the company can guarantee the milk they supply is strictly a2. The company is already filling glasses in New Zealand, Australia, and Britain. This month, the company will bring their brand to the bellies of Californians.
The idea obviously sounds like a miracle for those who miss milk in their lives due to self-described lactose intolerance. But what is the proof that a2 will truly allow some people to enjoy dairy again? In 2013 a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of a1 protein versus a2 protein. Researchers found that participants who consumed a2 dairy reported less bloating and abdominal pain. However, only eight people described themselves as being lactose intolerant when the study began. Of this small group, researchers found a decrease in lactose intolerance symptoms.
Although the study was conducted from a less than ideal sample size, it certainly provides hope for those who fear they might be lactose intolerant. The problem truly could be that the individual is just resistant to the a1 protein in most dairy. Switching to dairy with the a2 protein could alleviate many digestive problems and open up access to crucial nutrients that milk provides: calcium, potassium, Vitamin D, and protein. As Madelyn Fernstrom—health and nutrition editor for NBC News and Today—explains, “I don’t see any harm in giving it a try if you have some issue with digesting dairy. Who knows? It could potentially be easier for you to digest—or not.”
For those of you who have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, this will be no relief or aid. The product is for individuals who are not lactose intolerant but are merely unable to digest milk with the a1 protein. If the company gets good reviews from dairy-deprived Californians, a2 Milk Company will go nationwide. Look out world, they’re bringing dairy back.