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Dannii Minogue’s designer milk – what is it?
Sickened by the glut of pseudo-health information you’re fed every week? Here to take on the challenge is Dr Radha Modgil, resident doctor on Channel 5’s daytime show Live with...., medical presenter for all five series of Channel 4's The Sex Education Show and for the BBC's Make My Body Younger, and regular guest GP on The Vanessa Show.
An odd health story this week came in the form of Dannii Minogue’s enthusiastic endorsement for a new brand of milk – a2 Milk – derived from cows chosen specifically for their genetic make-up. Dannii swears by the stuff, saying that after years of feeling sick after drinking milk, she had finally found the solution.
Appearing on ITV1’s Lorraine and Sunday Brunch on Channel 4, Dannii told viewers: “When I used to drink normal milk as a child, I would feel icky and nauseous. It felt like it would get stuck half way down my oesophagus. I have always thought since then that I wouldn’t be able to digest it. But I love food. With dairy I just thought if I cut it out, I’d feel better – and that’s what I did.”
Dannii has officially signed up to a large scale PR and social media campaign for a2 Milk so you can expect to hear more from her on the subject over the next few months.
A2 is already a known brand in Dannii’s native Australia and the brand rolled out in UK Morrisons, Budgens stores and Tesco outlets last month.
Most cows’ milk contains different types of protein, two of which are called A2 and A1 (both types of casein, which is a protein). The belief is that A1 protein is not as easily digested as A2 protein and has been linked to symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea and constipation. These reactions may be caused by the A1 protein rather than the lactose or other milk proteins.
a2 Milk, however, comes from specially selected British dairy cows that produce milk containing only the A2 protein. This is determined by carrying out a DNA test on a hair from the cow’s tail.
On its website, a2 Milk cautions that the product “is not suitable for anyone medically diagnosed with galactosaemia, lactose intolerance, a milk allergy or other milk protein intolerance.”
Dr Radha says: “It’s important to make a distinction between dairy intolerance and a dairy allergy. An allergic reaction takes place when your body's immune system reacts to proteins in dairy products, causing allergy symptoms.”
Symptoms of an allergic reaction include itching of the mouth, throat or ears, a raised itchy red skin rash and swelling of the face. In the most serious cases, if a person has a severe allergic reaction they can suffer anaphylaxis (affecting the airways, breathing and circulation), which can be life-threatening.
“Most milk or dairy intolerances, however, affect people who have a lower level of lactase – an enzyme in your stomach which breaks down lactose (the sugary part of milk),” says Dr Radha. “This means that lactose is not digested and causes wind, bloating, crampy pains and diarrhoea.
The amount of lactose patients can consume before they get symptoms varies with intolerances.
“Lactose intolerance is occasionally inherited but more commonly, in adults, it happens temporarily after a bowel infection or chemotherapy.”
Other experts have spoken out against claims that we should all be avoiding ordinary dairy products. Catherine Collins, principal dietician at St George’s Hospital, London, told the Daily Mail: “There is little research on dairy intolerance – but we know in Caucasians, it is rare and far less common than the one-in-five figure often cited. Put simply, these types of products [such as a2 Milk] are fashionable. There is often nothing medically wrong with people who feel they are milk sensitive.”
If this affects you:
“If you think you have a milk intolerance, see you GP or a dietician,” says Dr Radha. “They will have a chat about your symptoms and exclude any other underlying cause for them. You will probably be asked about your eating history and you may be required to keep a food diary but tests are also available to determine whether you have a lactose or milk intolerance.”
Get more info about lactose intolerance on the nhs website.
An exclusion diet is the usual way to pinpoint whether you have an intolerance. This will involve cutting out the food completely, then reintroducing it slowly to see if your symptoms return.
“If you do need to exclude dairy products from your diet then make sure you are still getting enough calcium, Vitamin D and protein,” says Dr Radha.
“If you are experiencing symptoms after consuming milk or dairy products, see your GP before you make your own diagnosis,” says Dr Radha. “Don’t spend extra money on special types of milk and don’t exclude things from your diet if you are not sure what the problem may be.
“Some people who have tried a2 milk report an improvement in symptoms. This may be because they have an intolerance to the A1 protein component of milk. However, if you have a lactose intolerance or milk allergy then A2 milk won’t help as it contains the same amount of lactose as ordinary milk.”
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