Myth – All milk is the same

Dr. Ross Walker, June 2019

These days, ordering coffee can be quite a stress. Do you have full cream milk, skim milk, soy milk or most recently almond milk?

Over the past decade, there has emerged an even newer decision, should you have A1 or A2 milk? A2 first emerged as an alternative in around 2002 when Prof Julie Campbell from the University of Queensland fed rabbits either A1 or A2 protein, otherwise known as Beta casein A1 or A2, one of the main proteins in milk. The study found that A1 protein promoted the build-up of fat in the wall of the arteries known as atherosclerosis, whereas A2 protein prevented the same build up.

In 2014, research from Curtin University in Perth also showed that A2 milk caused less bloating or other gastrointestinal symptoms compared with A1 milk.

There is also very interesting epidemiological work from New Zealand, Africa and a comparison between Toulouse and Belfast. There is a north to south gradient with increasing heart disease risk the further south you go in New Zealand. This parallels with an increasing production of A1 milk in the changing breed of cows from the tip of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island.

In Africa, the Masai consume full cream milk from Zebu cows which exclusively produce A2 milk. The Masai experience little atherosclerosis but they also have a very nomadic existence.

The cardiac risk factor profile between Belfast and Toulouse is identical in terms of cholesterol, BP and cigarette smoking but there is three times more heart disease in Belfast. This parallels with three times higher levels of A1 milk in the Ayrshire cows in Belfast compared to the Jersey cows in Toulouse. But, you could also argue that it is more dangerous living in Belfast and thus the stress levels are higher along with the fact that their alcohol of choice is Guinness rather than the red wine consumed in France.

So, with the evidence we have today there is a compelling suggestion that A2 milk may have some benefits over A1. But, it is important to stress that the evidence is certainly not definitive.

Then, there is the age old chestnut of high-fat versus low-fat dairy products. For decades, we have had this low-fat nonsense shoved down our throats and unfortunately many health professionals are still trotting out this unscientific rubbish. The recent PURE Study looked at over 135,000 people followed for around seven and a half years in 18 different countries. This clearly showed that those who consumed the highest carbohydrates had a 28% higher death rate, whilst those who had the highest fat  intake had a 23% reduction in death rate compared with those are with the lowest fat intake and those with the highest saturated fat intake compared with the lowest had a 14% reduction.

A study of 30,000 Europeans followed for 15 years demonstrated a 23% reduction in Type II diabetes in those people with the highest intake of high-fat dairy. Therefore, all this nonsense about skim milk and avoiding cheese has no scientific basis. In fact, recent studies have demonstrated harder cheeses are actually good for your health.

So, the next time you order your coffee, don’t feel guilty about having full cream milk, especially if it’s A2. Rather, see it as therapy!


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