Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Milk and Autism Connection Claimed

A New Zealand professor of farm management and agribusiness is claiming that milk, or more precisely a protein, referred to as a "milk devil" found in some types of cows bred for milk in NZ, is linked to many illnesses including autism.

The Dominion Post reports on a book to be released tomorrow by Professor Keith Woodford of Lincoln University in which he claims that he has assembled a mass of scientific evidence linking milk to heart disease, type-1 diabetes, autism, schizophrenia and other illnesses. The milk devil is beta-casomomorphin7, a derivative of A1 beta-casein, a gene found in cows' milk.

Health fears about milk stem from the link between a tiny protein fragment in milk - what Professor Woodford calls a "milk devil" - and many illnesses.

The devil is present in A1 milk, but not in A2, produced by about half of New Zealand's cows.

The dairy industry mixes both types together so that all milk, apart from a small amount produced by the A2 Corporation and sold mainly in Auckland, contains the milk devil.

Professor Woodford says the industry could simply remove any risk by breeding only A2 cows.

It is not clear from the Dominion Post article whether this A1 milk protein, the "milk devil" is produced outside New Zealand. Should be interesting. Milk causing autism? In What the 'milk devil' could do the Dominion Post article previews Professor Woodford's book Devil in the Milk which carries endorsements by Professor Sir John Scott, professor emeritus of medicine at Auckland University, and Professor Garth Cooper, Auckland University's professor of biochemistry and clinical biochemistry. The book reviews the "milk devil" connection with several conditions including autism:

Autism and schizophrenia. Scientists have identified that autism sufferers typically excrete the milk devil in their urine, but normal children do not.

This could come only from A1 milk. When milk is removed from their diets, most show a steady improvement and reduction in the symptoms of autism.

I guess we will have to wait and see what becomes of this casein and autism theory.


Maya M said...

I wouldn't rush to discard the hypothesis entirely but it would sound better if they had implicated this casein variant in fewer conditions!
Among them, type 1 diabetes. Reminds me of 1993-94 when I was working on it. Nobody was talking about casein but another cow milk protein, bovine serum albumin (BSA), was suspected to trigger the immune system to destroy the insulin-producing cells. Besides BSA, there were many other suspects - some viruses, some host proteins, some genes controlling the immune response.
More than a decade later, the situation in type 1 diabetes research hasn't changed much. Some of the suspects remain, some have been all but cleared, including BSA - but casein seems to have taken its place. Still nobody knows the precise cause(s) of diabetes, a prevention method, a treatment other than good old insulin or a cure other than pancreas transplant(which sounds scary when I switch to think about autism, because what exactly could be transplanted to cure autism)?
When not ready to solve a problem, science just circles around it.

Anonymous said...

Having read the Woodford book and followed this scientific discussion for some time I can tell you the problem about the A1 casein in milk is NOT confined to NZ, and affects most (but not all) countries, including the US. The exceptions (like Iceland and Kenya) are countries or regions where the cows are naturally almost exclusively A2. I can also confirm that the epidemiology definitely points to the A1 casein being linked to a fair range of diseases. What is more, the biochemists have now established the metabolic process by which this linkage can occur. Plus, there are a lot of anecdotal reports from parents of autistic kids in Australia noting a big improvement in condition when they switch to A2-only milk. In the US you are lucky because A2 milk is now available in seven midwestern states in HyVee supermarkets and if there is enough demand for it I'm sure it will become available more widely.
NT, Wellington NZ

Kathryn said...

I have never heard of A1 and A2 milk but I appreciate this information. Your blog entry was emailed to me by a friend. My son is 6 and carries a diagnosis of ASD. I saw casein in yogurt cause seizures in my child. When I removed the yogurt, he was seizure free. I'm a believer in the damage that casein as well as gluten can do.