Background: A major protein component of cow’s milk is β-casein. The most frequent variants in dairy herds are A1 and A2. Recent studies showed that milk containing A1 β-casein promoted intestinal inflammation and exacerbated gastrointestinal symptoms. However, the acute gastrointestinal effects of A1 β-casein have not been investigated. This study compared the gastrointestinal effects of milk containing A1 and A2 β-casein versus A2 β-casein alone in Chinese adults with self-reported lactose intolerance.
Methods: In this randomised, crossover, double-blind trial, with a 3-day dairy washout period at baseline, subjects were randomised to consume 300 mL of milk containing A1 and A2 β-casein (ratio 58:42; conventional milk) or A2 β-casein alone; subjects consumed the alternative product after a 7-day washout period. Urine galactose was measured at baseline after a 15 g lactose load. Subjects completed 9-point visual analogue scales for gastrointestinal symptoms (borborygmus, flatulence, bloating, abdominal pain, stool frequency, and stool consistency) at baseline and at 1, 3, and 12 h after milk consumption.
Results: A total of 600 subjects were included. All six symptom scores at 1 and 3 h were significantly lower after consuming A2 β-casein versus conventional milk (all P<0.0001). At 12 h, significant differences remained for bloating, abdominal pain, stool frequency, and stool consistency (all P<0.0001). Symptom scores were consistently lower with A2 β-casein in both lactose absorbers (urinary galactose ≥0.27 mmol/L) and lactose malabsorbers (urinary galactose <0.27 mmol/L).
Conclusions: Milk containing A2 β-casein attenuated acute gastrointestinal symptoms of milk intolerance, while conventional milk containing A1 β-casein reduced lactase activity and increased gastrointestinal symptoms compared with milk containing A2 β-casein. Thus, milk-related gastrointestinal symptoms may result from the ingestion of A1 β-casein rather than lactose in some individuals.