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Devil in the Milk

by Tiffany in Book Reviews, Healthy Eating

milk and cows

Ever heard of the raging debate about A1 and A2 milk? No? I hadn’t either. But I am generally not a fan of milk so I thought perhaps I just wasn’t being observant. Raw milk is about the only milk I will drink and I haven’t even had that in a quite a while. A new book I read this weekend has me wondering if that shouldn’t be a permanent thing. As it is now, we have reverted back to using some milk products… like cheese.

I picked up a book called Devil in the Milk and the introduction talked about how science in more “health conscious” countries is indicating that a tiny protein fragment called A1 beta-casein can cause a range of serious illnesses, including heart disease, type-1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia. Whoa…

The author, Keith Woodford, is a professor of farm management and agribusiness and he first heard of the A1 debate when a New Zealand company called the A2 corporation claimed they were selling milk that was healthier than “normal” milk. Of course the diary industry was quick to downplay this new milk and say that these claims were invalid. That was sadly all it took to convince Woodford that there was nothing to this A1/A2 thing. Then a friend of his joined the company and he handed Woodford several scientific papers and studies that had obviously been buried by the powers that be. This was the catalyst for his own research into the matter. Devil in the Milk was originally released in New Zealand but the US and Canada are all producing A1 milk with this potentially harmful protein fragment and he expects that within the next few decades this will become an issue here as well… as consumers start to demand A2 milk.

It all started with a private study into why Samoan children living in New Zealand were very susceptible to Type-1 diabetes whereas Samoan children living in Samoa had an extremely low incidence. Obviously they knew it had to be an environmental or dietary factor. Eventually they decided to see if milk might be the culprit… specifically a casein and they learned from a dairy farmer that there was a little something “unnatural” going on with beta-caseins in cow’s milk. They learned of the beta-casein proteins A1 and A2 and how a mutation had occurred within the amino acid strings.  This mutation was passed on throughout the western world via large scale breeding and most of the cows used for milk in the western world have A1 cows. Could the diabetes issue be as simple as that? Soon after they did a study on mice. None of the mice fed the A2 beta-casein got diabetes. Of the mice fed the A1 beta-casein, 47% got diabetes. To make a long story short, other scientists got involved and studied the issue more and found links between consumption of A1 and other health problems.

There is lots of good info in this book about the nature of cow’s milk and how devil in the milkit relates to human consumption. Human milk has far less protein in it AND it has A2 beta-caseins. The A1 mutation is also said to be bad for people with a leaky gut… which I found interesting since many parents of autistic children find their kids have leaky guts… where elements of the food they ingest makes it way out of the intestine and into the blood stream.

It is a highly technical book but very interesting and the opening chapters really put it all in layman’s terms to help the non-scientific understand the argument. I think it will be of interest to people who drink a lot of milk…. especially people who drink raw milk and follow a Nourishing Traditions type diet with all its lovely full fat milks, creams, butters, cheeses, ect. Not because it effects them more than anyone else in the Western world but because it is an issue they may not even know they should be concerned about. Consuming A1 beta-caseins may nullify some of their ideas on why that style of eating is healthier.

If you drink a lot of milk you probably want to give this a read. In a few years time it may be the new concern…. A1 versus A2 along with GMOs and rBST but perhaps more serious and with more obstacles to overcome in getting it out of our milk.

An alternative for us has been almond milk. My oldest son is now making it himself even.

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

20 Comments on Devil in the Milk

  • Wow! Very interesting. Thanks for reading and summarizing for us. I am so glad I am transitioning my toddler to rice milk and oat milk instead of cow’s milk! We don’t drink milk in our home, but we do use some for cooking and cream for homemade whipped cream on occasion.

    I’m going to tweet this post! Everyone should know about this!

  • hanna

    Thanks so much for this post. We have been dairy free for a while but recently I was beginning to wonder whether it was the right move after reading some of the nourishing traditions info and people following it who drink raw milk etc. This just made me feel ok to carry on finding alternatives. Thanks

  • Green Fundraising Ideas

    Hmm..interesting. I guess there is a book for everything! Thanks fro summarizing. We mostly drink Soy milk, but do still take some whole milk in around our house.

  • Genevieve

    Thanks for posting this article! I’ve heard about this from Dr. Tom Cowan from Fourfold Healing.

    For those that enjoy raw dairy (which is highly recommended for digestion), you can still do goat and sheep which doesn’t have this problem. I think I also read that it reduces the “devil” by fermenting the cow’s milk into kefir or yogurt.

    The more awareness about this, the more chance farmers will get cows that don’t produce this harmful element.



  • Bev

    ahh yes-we had this very discussion the other night with our homeschool group. If you google “pus in milk” you will also be shocked at the outcome. Drink organic.

  • Thank you for this information. I don’t drink milk but my husband and 4 year old son do. I always buy Organic Milk but I am wondering if that matters in this case??

    Did the book mention that Organic Milk in the U.S. also contains A1?

    I really appreciate learning about this kind of information.

    • Marilyn

      The book does address it, Organic or not does not matter. The cows that the milk comes from are what matters! The most maddening thing is that American farms could turn over their herds (as they have in New Zealand and Australia) to be all A2 but it would hurt the bottom line too much!

  • Cheri, organic is no help in this situation. It is the cows in the US and western world that have this A1 mutation and it would have to be bred out of them over a period of years to get rid of it. If you drink organic it will still have A1 caseins.

  • Tiffany, thanks for the response. That was what I was afraid of. Time to try an alternative.

    Thanks again for this very helpful information!

  • wow, that is amazing. thank you for that information. i read an article awhile back about humans being the only animal that drank other animals milk (well, cat’s do but we give it to them!) and how most animal only consume milk as babies. we are NOT the norm in the animal kingdom. i wonder if that has anything to do with this diabetes and other stuff going on?? thanks for this post, something to think about!

  • Thanks for the info! It got me scrambling b/c we drink raw milk from Jersey cows. Here are a few sites with information I thought was interesting to read, which have given me more to think about–wanted to pass on.

  • Kim

    My 2 yr old prefers Rice milk and I was trying to avoid cows milk. My husband, a pharmacist and skeptic to my all natural, tree hugging nature, asked about the sugar level. Rice milk is high in sugar. So be sure to watch the sugar levels on the various milks. Apparently, Almond milk has among the lowest. We hate soy, so I dont know. There’s controversary about soy too.

  • Bridget

    Hi Tiffany~ I’m fairly new to your site & don’t think I’ve commented yet…but I do enjoy it. : ) Thanks for sharing the info…very interesting. A year or so ago I spoke with our pediatrician about the link between vaccines & autism. My second little guy was about 1.5yrs old I guess. She had no problem letting me delay or spread out the vaccines & it did make me feel a little more comfortable. But I thought it interesting that she told me she was more concerned about the proteins in milk than she was the vaccines in relation to autism. I never researched it further. The whole topic was overwhelming at the time & so many times researching only leads to more confusion. It’s frustrating. Anyway, I’m curious to read the book. It’s makes me angry/sad when you hear health issues that are steered by politics. I think I heard every 20 min a child is diagnosed with autism. Craziness.

    Take care,

  • Justine Ward

    Hi Tiffany, here is some further reading, an excerpt from the Weston A Price Website in reference to your Nourishing Traditions comment :

    Personally I would avoid feeding babies (or anyone!) Almond Milk: Purified water, evaporated cane juice, almonds, tricalcium phosphate, natural vanilla flavor and other natural flavors, sea salt, potassium citrate, carrageenan, soy lecithin, d-alpha tocopherol (natural vitamin E), vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D2

    same goes with Soy, or Rice Milk . for similar reasons. I’ll stick with the real stuff ;) Properly treated and produced Raw whole Milk, it’s been keeping us healthy for a long time ;)

  • Melissa

    We live in the Netherlands because we are stationed here with the military. I have heard of many people coming over here from the states, formerly with lactose intolerance, and here they find they can handle the milk and cheese just fine. I know you state in the article that the A1 is in the western cow, but I wonder where the cows here stand. Or what the difference might be, if not the A1 A2 strain issue. Hormones? Antibiotics?

  • skye

    hi Tiffany,
    thanks for such important information! we’re moving back to asia next year and i am wondering about the cows in that region (china and russia, esp)–do you know where i could look for more information on that?

    i really enjoy your blog! :)

  • Mark

    Thanks for the info!
    My wife and our two young children drink mainly soy milk, but the key is, we get a soy milk powder, use much less than it says to, and add a little honey. It tastes great in cereal, but it’s really mostly lightly-sweetened water. We only buy cereals with very low sugar.
    My wife adds a little Silk Soy to hers to get some carageenan to make hers a little thicker. (I don’t like Silk because the consistancy is TOO slick for me.
    As for cow’s milk, the kids do have the organic from time to time, and the kids eat yogurt. I think it is a good source of calcium and I do not want the kids to lose their milk tolerance, which can happen if you do not give it to them for a couple weeks.
    As for whole or raw milk, the fat content is just too much. I’d think a gut would cancel out any health benefits you get from being more “natural” by consuming raw.
    An adult eating lots of leafy greens needn’t drink milk, anyways. I only have it in my coffee.
    Thanks again!

  • Katie

    hmm that’s interesting. i wonder what the other diet differences were between the two places. i drink organic, local unhomogenized (it is pasteurized) milk occasionally and use it in cooking. my son won’t drink milk (2.5) and my dh drinks about a gallon a week. i think i will stick with the real thing for now as we are anti-soy and don’t love all of the added ingredients in almond. i will definitely have my dh cut back though as diabetes runs in his family!

  • Susan

    Great article. Question: What is a “leaky gut”?

  • Susan, a leaky gut is when food particles pass through the intesinal membranes into the blood. This happens when you have a bad immune system and many believe it may be the cause of food allergies… and other health problems.