A Moneychanger Book Review

Devil in the Milk

by Keith Woodford

You can buy Devil in the Milk from the Acres USA bookstore. Dr. Woodford has presented a complicated subject fairly and in the clearest language. The style is a pleasure to read, no scientific jargon, straightforward, splendid English prose. Anyone can read this book and understand the issues and the science.

This book has been sitting on my desk calling to me, nagging me, since July 2010. I read it back then and wanted to share its contents with you. The author, Keith Woodford, is Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University in New Zealand. 

Personally I am convinced that raw milk—not pasteurized, not homogenized, but fresh from the cow—is a healthy, nutritious product. My wife Susan and I drink it. My children and grandchildren drink it. But what if it isn’t? What if some danger lurks in that milk? This book answers that question. Here’s a summary from the book’s back cover: 

“A best seller in New Zealand where it was first published, this groundbreaking work examines a 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 formed when we digest A1 beta-casein, a milk protein. 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 affected some European cattle thousands of years ago. Most cows in Asia, Africa, and parts of southern Europe produce A2 milk, but in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and northern Europe the majority of cows produce A1 milk. And that, warns scientist and agribusiness expert Keith Woodford, poses some serious health risks.

“In Devil in the Milk, Woodford brings together the evidence published in more than 100 scientific papers. He examines the population studies that explore the link between consuming 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.”


To begin with, you need to know about a tiny protein fragment called beta-casomorphin-7, or BCM7.

“BCM7 is unquestionably a powerful opioid and hence a narcotic. It is also an oxidant. It is formed by digestion of a particular type of milk protein produced by some cows. This milk protein is called A1 beta-casein.

“The BCM7 that is released from A1 beta-casein has been implicated in many illnesses, including heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, and autism. And there is increasing evidence that it is associated with milk intolerance and an additional range of auto-immune diseases.” (p 7).

Wait! How does this work?

Milk is mostly (87% or so) water. The rest is fat, protein, milk sugar (lactose), and minerals. The protein is either casein or whey. Casein precipitates out when you make clabber or yogurt or kefir: curds. Whey stays in solution. Casein proteins are either alpha-, beta, or kappa-casein.

Pproteins are made of amino acids containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Amino acids are the fundamental building blocks of life, and 20 are found in the human body. Eight are essential to the diet, but the body can make the others.

The stomach breaks down proteins with digestive enzymes into protein fragments (peptides) and then individual amino acids. The amino acids are absorbed out of the gut into the bloodstream. Some peptides are excreted with the feces, but some penetrate the gut wall and enter the bloodstream. 

Beta-casein protein is divided into three types, A1, A2, and A3. A1 was identified first, and A3 isn’t very common. A2 was named because it was the second identified. Because of a tiny difference in the position of the amino acids in A1 and A2 beta-casein, digesting A1 produces the peptide called beta-casomorphin-7 or BCM7, a “casomorphin.” 

What’s that? A derivative of casein, and an opioid with narcotic effects, like morphine. And BCM7 is very stable.

Most likely the A-2 casein was the original bovine casein, and a mutation caused cows to produce A1, especially prevalent among the northern European breeds. Generally, the black and white breeds (Holsteins) produce A1, while the brown cows (Jerseys, Guernsey, Brown Swiss) produce A2, although many brown cows also produce A1. Cows can be genetically tested to determine whether they are A1 or A2. 

(Cows have a pair of genes that determines what sort of milk they will produce. They can have the gene pair A2/A2 and produce A2 milk, A1/A1 and produce A1 milk, or A1/A2 and produce both A1 and A2 milk. We tested our four Jerseys and one was A2/A2, one A1/A1, and two A1/A2.)


When milk is pasteurized—heated to kill bacteria—it can break down (“denature”) the protein. That can release individual peptides, such as BCM7.

What happens when BCM7 enters the gut? It will merely pass through most healthy persons because the molecule is too large to be absorbed through the gut wall, but not all people are healthy. Some have “leaky gut syndrome” which allows peptides to pass easily into the blood stream. 

People with leaky gut show BCM7 in their urine, a condition also associated with autism symptoms. Stomach ulcer or celiac disease sufferers can also absorb BCM7 through the gut, as can babies. 

Experiments with rats injected by BCM7 show that it attaches to opioid receptors in the brains, and then the rats exhibit behavior similar to autism and schizophrenia. In rats and rabbits it can also cause breathing dysfunction similar to sudden infant death syndrome.

BCM7 can affect immune function as well as behavior, and it appears implicated in auto-immune diseases. It may also contribute to heart disease by speeding plaque guild up.

Anyone who has ever given codeine to a child knows that opioids can constipate. BCM7 slows down food passing through the gut, which may worsen the effects of lactose intolerance. 


Dr. Woodford introduces evidence from numerous studies that link A1 milk consumption to increase in heart disease. The same strong evidence connects A1 beta casein intake to Type 1 diabetes incidence. 

Many autistics and schizophrenics excrete abnormally high levels of BCM7 and similar peptides in their urine. That drops when they are put on a gluten-free and casein-free diet. Many studies show that eliminating dietary casein and gluten leads to improved autism symptoms.

A1 beta-casein is also a suspect in allergies, intolerance to dairy foods, and auto-immune diseases. 

Some of these links are stronger than others, with more research to back them up, but all point a very suspicious finger at A1 milk.


Ten years ago the A2 Corporation formed in New Zealand to sell A2 milk. In 2007 they began marketing it in Australia. In the US A2 milk is not generally available, and in my opinion, not likely to be any time soon, unless you own your own A2 cow or a goat (they produce only A2 milk). Here’s why:

In the 1880s Americans focused their attention on improving cattle breeds, especially dairy cattle. About that time began the feud between Holstein and Jersey breeders. An old joke tells the story:

A Holstein breeder taunted a Jersey man with the comment, “I could put a silver dollar in a bucket and you couldn’t milk enough out of that Jersey to cover it!”

The Jersey man replied, “Maybe, but if you filled it to the brim with milk from your Holstein, you could still see the dollar lying on the bottom!”

More milk, or richer? Holsteins produce a more weight, but lower butterfat: 2.5% to 3.6%. Jerseys produce a little less weight, but butterfat of 4.9%. Holstein milk is white, Jersey milk tan. To be fair, that tannish-yellow color arises more from the abundant beta-carotene in Jersey milk than from butterfat, but anybody with taste buds can easily distinguish that thin Holstein milk from Jersey.

Because Holsteins produce more milk, because dairy farmers are under financial pressure to produce weight, and because they grain feed rather than graze their animals, they have shifted from Jerseys to Holsteins in the last 50 years. According to the US EPA, Holsteins make up 90% of the US dairy herd, while Jersey’s make up only 7%.

Almost all Holsteins produce A1.

Are you watching this set up?

Dairy farmers, led by dairy organizations, have a powerful economic interest in proving that A1 milk has no harmful health effects so they won’t have to replace their herds. And because the dairy organizations work hand in glove with the US government, they will ring in government help to suppress any claim that A1 milk is harmful.

Thus it is easy to foretell the outcome over the next twenty years.

  • At first, the dairy organizations and the US government will ignore the A1 issue, stonewalling all inquiries. We are nearing the end of this phase.
  • Next Big Dairy and the USDA will meet every scientific objection to A1 milk with hoots and controlled studies that “prove” A1 is safe and that A1 critics are crazy and probably ought to be committed for their own safety. Some scientists who object to A1 milk and cannot be silenced will be vilified in the press or even jailed. Government scientists will do big studies that conclude, “No connection between A1 milk and any disease can be definitively established.”
  • Dairy groups and the US government will fiercely oppose labeling milk as A1 or A2, even voluntary labeling, depriving consumers of discovery and choice. (Compare how they have fought GMO labeling and won, although GMO foods must be labeled in Europe.)
  • The evidence against A1 will mount. It will come from all directions overseas. The USDA and Big Dairy (like High Fructose Corn Syrup producers right now) will run advertisements proclaiming how safe and beneficial A1 milk really is. They will picture a smiling mom pouring a big foaming glass of A1 milk for her smiling daughter with the slogan, “A1 is really A1!”
  • As the A1 headaches refuse to go away, USDA and Big Dairy will admit that, well, sure, in a very few cases A1 milk might cause problems, but generally it is safe for everybody else, so it doesn’t really matter. 
  • About this time the realizers amongst dairy farmers will begin phasing out their A1 Holsteins and rebuilding their herds with A2 bulls of other breeds. Shifting the entire US dairy herd to A2 animals will take at least 20 and perhaps as long as 50 years to complete, but eventually it will happen.
  • About ten years after the shift to A2 milk cows has begun, maybe 15, USDA and Big Dairy will begin to advocate a shift from A1 to A2 milk, and applaud their own pioneering efforts in recognizing the necessity and boldly acting to correct the problem.

Meantime, millions will sicken and die (assuming that A1 milk really is the danger the evidence suggests).

Your options to avoid A1 milk are limited, but whenever you are dealing with autism, schizophrenia, celiac disease, allergies auto-immune disease, diabetes or heart disease, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to cut milk out of the diet altogether to see if it helps.

Originally published May 2012