Many people identify themselves as lactose intolerant – unable to digest one of the primary sugars found in dairy products – but that may not be the real problem. As more studies are identifying, the symptoms of lactose intolerance may actually be caused by A1 casein, a protein found in mainstream cow’s milk, typically accompanied by well-tolerated A2 casein.

With more A2 dairy products available, a greater number of people can enjoy the health benefits of dairy, known for its high levels of calcium and vitamin D, nutrients that are vital for bone health. Unfortunately, at this juncture, A2 milk is difficult to come by; the average American is unlikely to find it at their grocery door, and those living in food deserts are lucky to find even traditional milk products in local shops. This makes the nutritional depravation all the more chronic and reinforces class-based health divisions.

Where A2 Dairy Comes From

Though most cows produce milk that contains both A1 and A2 casein, sheep and goats produce exclusively the A2 variety. And in addition to these other milk producing animals, there are some cows that produce exclusively A2 protein. These cows remain rare in the United States, but are very popular in Australia. In Australia, A2 milk is widely available and even outsells organic milk.

Health Concerns Linked To A1 Casein

It isn’t just lactose intolerance that’s tied to A1 casein – though as many as 25% of Americans attest to the condition – but actually an array of other conditions, including such common ailments as diabetes, heart disease, and autism. Though A1 casein may not directly cause these conditions, there are distinct linkages, including a 1993 study of type 1 diabetes in Samoan children that spurred later inquiries. A follow-up study in mice, published in 1997, supported this theory.

A1 Dairy Free Diets

The links between A1 casein and autism, for example, may be why so many parents swear by dairy free diets for their autistic children. Many find that their children experience fewer behavioral problems and greater gains in language and social skills when milk products are removed from their diet, but proponents of A2 milk suggest that introducing A1-free dairy products would produce equivalent results.

A1 casein has also been linked to the production of beta-casomorphin7 (BCM7), an opioid like substance that may be responsible for certain neurological disturbances. Both people with schizophrenia and those with autism have been found to have high levels of BCM7 in their blood. Removing A1 dairy products, then, can prevent or reduce the production of BCM7.

As we learn more about the potential dangers of A1 casein, we can expect our relationship with the dairy industry to change. Though there are only a few U.S. based producers of A2 dairy at this time, those early adopters may just be the beginning of a sea change, pointing us in the direction of Australia’s A2 dairy-heavy markets.