Millions of people who appear to have an allergic reaction to the lactose found in dairy products could return to milk (file image)
Millions of people who appear to have an allergic reaction to the lactose found in dairy products could return to milk.
A new study supported by British experts found the allergy to cow’s milk may actually be triggered by a protein, rather than lactose.
And a select group of British dairy herds is already producing milk that does not contain the suspect protein, which is known as A1.
This alternative milk has an apparently benign protein, called A2, which does not cause the same symptoms.
Fifteen farms in Shropshire, Cheshire and North Wales are producing A2 milk that is free of the A1 protein and is available in UK supermarkets.
As many as one in five people report a range of stomach problems associated with milk and dairy products that were assumed to be caused by lactose intolerance. The figure is much higher, around 60per cent, in populations in the Far East.
When doctors test people who self-diagnose as suffering from lactose intolerance, many come back negative.
The discovery that the problem actually relates to the A1 protein could clear up the mystery around their symptoms.
The trial on 600 people was carried out in China and the findings were peer reviewed and are being published in the UK-based Nutrition Journal today.(wed)
Dr Anthony Hobson, Clinical Director of the renowned Functional Gut Clinic, in London, said: ‘Patients often come to us convinced that their digestive troubles are due to lactose intolerance – there is a lot of self-diagnosis taking place.
‘When we then test them for the condition and it comes back negative, they are lost as to what else the problem could be – but this could explain it.’
He added: ‘This exciting new research on such a large sample is significant in that it suggests that many patients’ issues with dairy may in fact be specific to the A1 milk protein that is found in regular cows’ milk.
‘A simple switch to milk containing only the A2 protein could be an important part of symptom management for those suffering from milk intolerance.’
Consultant gastroenterologist, Dr Anton Emmanuel, said: ‘This is the largest human trial to date examining the differences between the impact of the A1 and A2 protein.
‘It suggests that proteins found in dairy can have a significant impact on digestion, and that lactose may not be the only cause of gastrointestinal issues in those with an intolerance.
‘Given that the underlying biochemistry and symptoms of lactose intolerance are identical in Asian and Caucasian/British populations, these results are highly significant to both regions.’
The trial in China showed the impact of drinking 300ml of milk on symptoms often associated with milk intolerance, with the effects being measured at one, three and 12 hours.
Participants who drank A1 protein-free milk (A2 Milk) during the clinical trial showed improvements in gastrointestinal symptoms compared to when they drank conventional milk.
A smaller human trial at Australia’s Curtin University in showed that milk that contains the A2 protein but no A1 protein is easier on the digestive system.
Last year, another small scale study in China showed that those with lactose intolerance can drink A2 milk with no digestive issues.
And a select group of British dairy herds is already producing milk that does not contain the suspect protein, which is known as A1 (file image)
Historically, all domesticated cows used to produce milk that was A1 protein free and only contained the A2 protein. Today, for reasons that are not well understood, the majority of cow’s milk around the world, including the UK, contains A1 protein.
The a2 Milk Company launched in Australia in the year 2000 and it has taken 10per cent of the country’s fresh milk market.
A subsidiary is now operating in Britain and works with 15 farms in Shropshire, Cheshire and North Wales to specifically select A2 cows producing fresh a2 Milk every day.
The a2 Milk farmers are paid a supplement above the rate they would normally receive for producing milk.
The milk is sold in some branches of Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose as well as independent stores, Ocado and AmazonFresh. It is more expensive than conventional milk at £1.35 for a 1 litre carton compared to 75p for 1.13 litre carton of standard cow’s milk.
The research in China, which was carried out by the Fudan University in Shanghai and Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, was funded by The a2 Milk Company. The academics say the research was ‘wholly independent, peer-reviewed and critically robust’.