Wellness column: Why are more people lactose intolerant today?
Finally, I’m talking about the most asked question that I hear multiple times a day. By now, we all have probably heard about organic milk being a really healthier alternative to processed industrial milk, which has been condemned for being loaded with chemicals, antibiotics as well as stress hormones. And we have read that organic milk is essentially chemical-free and healthier, as the cows are grass-fed or are fed on organically cultivated fodder. But is that it? Are we are just looking at organic or non-organic milk? Nothing else? We need to start thinking beyond this. so that the milk that we or our kids drink does not cause any health issues.
As we all know, milk is a great source of vitamins, minerals, calcium as well as protein. Casein particularly, is the largest group of proteins, which is found in milk and makes up around 80 per cent of the total protein content. If you go back and check, you’ll find that A2 cows are the earlier breeds of cows like the desi Indian cows or the African cows that produced casein along with an amino acid called Proline. Now, in the new hybrid breeds, the same amino acid proline gets converted to Histidine due to mutation or alteration of genes over the years. These hybrid breeds are called A1 cows, and these include breeds like Holstein, Friesian and Ayrshire.
In A2 milk, Proline is firmly bonded to a small protein called beta-casomorphin 7 (BCM 7), which prevents it from getting into the milk produced by A2 cows. On the other hand, when it comes to the milk of A1 cows, Histidine has a very weak bond with BCM 7, so it easily gets released in the gut of animals. Once such milk is consumed, it enters the human body and interacts with the digestive system and internal organs, which causes inflammation. Also, milk from A1 cows supposedly produces opiate-like effects, resulting in the development of mild to serious medical conditions. I’ve researched a bit and found out that “a human clinical trial conducted at Curtin University in Australia proved that there were significant differences in digestive symptoms between milks containing A1 and A2 beta-casein”. It clearly suggests that certain unwanted proteins or peptides from this A1 milk, which do not occur naturally in the human body, may cause digestive disorders like inflammatory bowl disease, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut or a weak gut, which can lead to further complications.
Let’s discuss Indian cows. The Bos Indicus cow is the desi breed that produces A2 milk with good quality protein, and our ancestors or even our parents were drinking the same milk and stayed healthy. So, what do you think is causing more issues now, as we see people getting lactose intolerant or allergic to milk? These desi cows have been conveniently replaced in India by the high-yielding cross breed, popularly known as HF or Holstein Friesian, which provides the A1 variety of milk. This has happened because Indians really love their milk, and there was a high demand for milk, which needed a good amount of supply. This difference is something you need to consider beyond the ‘type’ of milk.” This has brought us to a situation today where our own desi cows have become a dying breed in India. There are hardly a few brands that will provide A2 milk, or only few people who own their cow to get the good-quality milk. When researched further, I also found out that the Gir or our desi cow, which is a Gujarati local breed, is now being imported from Brazil and the Brahmi Bull, which is one more pure breed, is more popular in Australia. It’s ironic that people in other countries are drinking better quality milk from cows that are native to our country, and we are running behind imported fancy packaged milk just to show our social status. Is that even needed?
After learning about these two kinds of milk, you now know which one to choose from. As I always say, we need to start healthy somewhere and the rapidly growing incidence of lifestyle diseases all these years is a warning sign for us. We are falling prey to unbridled commercialisation, and so is our indigenous cow breed. The desi Indian cow is a unique species and needs to be conserved. We also need to make sure that we start eating foods that are native to India, to keep our bodies happy and healthy.
The writer is a clinical nutritionist with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices.