Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk

Keith Woodford


This groundbreaking work is the first internationally published book to examine the link between a protein in the milk we drink and a range of serious illnesses, including heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia.

These health problems are linked to a tiny protein fragment that is formed when we digest A1 beta-casein, a milk protein produced by many cows in the United States and northern European countries. Milk that contains A1 beta-casein is commonly known as A1 milk; milk that does not is called A2. All milk was once A2, until a genetic mutation occurred some thousands of years ago in some European cattle. A2 milk remains high in herds in much of Asia, Africa, and parts of Southern Europe. A1 milk is common in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.

In Devil in the Milk, Keith Woodford brings together the evidence published in more than 100 scientific papers. He examines the population studies that look at the link between consumption of A1 milk and the incidence of heart disease and Type 1 diabetes; he explains the science that underpins the A1/A2 hypothesis; and he examines the research undertaken with animals and humans. The evidence is compelling: We should be switching to A2 milk.

A2 milk from selected cows is now marketed in parts of the U.S., and it is possible to convert a herd of cows producing A1 milk to cows producing A2 milk.

This is an amazing story, one that is not just about the health issues surrounding A1 milk, but also about how scientific evidence can be molded and withheld by vested interests, and how consumer choices are influenced by the interests of corporate business.


Peak Oil Resources Review:

I have been tangentially aware of some controversy surrounding milk for some time.  The nature of the discussion consisted of either "You shouldn't drink milk" or "only drink raw milk".  That there was ever more than this to the so-called milk controversy was unknown to me.  The only exception to that was the casein-free and gluten-free diets that I had been introduced to only in passing by someone who had an apparent sensitivity to those proteins.

Devil in the Milk takes a topic that was on my periphery and brings it front and center into my worldview.  In part, this is because of my concern for my own children and what they eat and drink.  Think about... who hasn't heard the well-worn mantra that milk "builds strong bones" and gives you "white teeth" and that it "does a body good"?... Or does it?

In this book, Woodford presents a compelling case for the potential risk that A1 milk and its associated proteins could pose to consumers.  He presents the case on three important levels; the science, the industry, and bringing a new product to market against overwhelming odds.  Each of these elements adds a layer of complexity to the story, ultimately yielding intriguing tale that will be the source of much thought and much discussion.

In truth, the science is not fully worked out.  There remains biochemical pathways to connect and more research to be done.  That much is clear.  However, the evidence is convincing enough to make prudent people stand up and take notice and change their habits until there is more clarity on the topic.  There is simply too much here to be flatly rejected out of hand.  If it is to be rejected, or for that matter accepted, it should be done on the basis of sound science and medicine.  Inevitably, with human fortunes and reputations at risk, it is unlikely to be so simple.

On a personal level, Devil in the Milk has raise the awareness my wife and I, such that we have been limiting the milk intake of our family.  With watchful eyes do we observe our children and their behavior while their dairy is restricted.  While it is still early in this "micro-experiment" of ours, anecdotally I can say that there appears to be a change in our kid's behavior for the better.  I still have concerns about maintaining a healthy and balanced family diet that supplies the necessary calcium and other nutrients needed for proper growth and development.  In the place of "standard" dairy, we have been trying alternatives that only have the A2 milk protein.  However, until A2 milk and related products are more widespread and cost-effective, this will be challenge.    

In the meantime, being "A2-only" is a work in progress.  Until this issue is settled and A2 products are more readily available, we will be watching, researching, and waiting.  


Keith Woodford is a writer who specializes in peak-oil issuesKeith Woodford is Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University in New Zealand. A regular commentator in the news media, he was previously at the University of Queensland (Australia) for 20 years. He lives with his family in Christchurch, New Zealand.