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The Devil in the Milk

July 09, 2009 | 147,028 views
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milk, dairy cowsProminent food researcher Dr. Thomas Cowan has been involved in thinking about the medicinal aspects of cow’s milk virtually his entire career.

His studies on the subject started in earnest when he read the book The Milk of Human Kindness Is Not Pasteurized, by maverick physician, William Campbell Douglass, MD.

Cowan became convinced that a large part of the disease in this country is related to the way we handle, or rather mishandle, milk and milk products.

Raw and cultured dairy products from healthy grass-fed cows are one of the healthiest foods people have ever eaten. However, pasteurized milk products have caused more disease than perhaps any other substance people are generally in contact with.

However, he still felt that a piece of the puzzle was missing. Many of his patients, in spite of eating only the proper dairy products, still had illness and still seemed not to tolerate milk. Recently, he was asked to consider writing the foreword to a book called The Devil in the Milk, written by Dr. Keith Woodford, which was again an eye-opener for him.

All proteins are long chains of amino acids. Beta casein is a chain 229 amino acids in length. Cows who produce this protein in their milk with a proline at number 67 are called A2 cows, and are the older breeds of cows (e.g. Jerseys, Asian and African cows). But some 5,000 years ago, a mutation occurred in this proline amino acid, converting it to histidine. Cows that have this mutated beta casein are called A1 cows, and include breeds like Holstein.

Proline has a strong bond to a small protein called BCM 7, which helps keep it from getting into the milk, so that essentially no BCM 7 is found in the urine, blood or GI tract of old-fashioned A2 cows. On the other hand, histidine, the mutated protein, only weakly holds on to BCM 7, so it is liberated in the GI tract of animals and humans who drink A1 cow milk.

BCM 7 has been shown to cause neurological impairment in animals and people exposed to it, especially autistic and schizophrenic changes. BCM 7 interferes with the immune response, and injecting BCM 7 in animal models has been shown to provoke type 1 diabetes. Dr. Woodford’s book presents research showing a direct correlation between a population’s exposure to A1 cow’s milk and incidence of autoimmune disease, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia.

Simply switching breeds of cows could result in amazing health benefits.

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Dr. Mercola's Comments:

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
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Recurrent ear infections and colic in infants and children
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Infertility
  • Leukemia
  • Autism

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).

For now, you can get an eye-opening education into the health issues surrounding A1 milk, and why A2 milk appears to be far superior, in Keith Woodford’s book Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk.

How to Find Truly Health Milk

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.


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