How Important is A1 Milk Protein as a Public Health Issue?

Advertising my post “Exorcising the Devil in the Milk,” I received a challenge and a question on Twitter from @kitchenslut.

The Challenge:

Look. I don't disagree but find there is a trend that among academically minded professionals economists are more likely to be converted to diet evangelism.

My view here is that it is a bad idea to trust any single academic discipline with any important scientific question. Every important scientific question should have at least two different academic disciplines thinking about it. For issues of diet and health, I hope that economics can be an additional discipline providing a cross-check on the science of diet and health. The training of economists makes them able to understand and think through the evidence in this area. Carola Binder discusses the role of economists in this area in her guest post “The Obesity Code and Economists as General Practitioners.”

My Rejoinder:

The orthodoxy is based on relatively slim evidence, and other hypotheses are worth testing. Diet evangelism doesn't have to be any more than "THIS IS A HYPOTHESIS WORTH TESTING!!!" And I'm going to live that way in the meantime.

The Question:

How would you rate the importance of the A1 milk protein on a relative scale of public health issues?

My Answer (with correction of a typo and some clarifications added in brackets):

  • Huge. Look at the cross-country graph of heart disease vs. A1 milk consumption [in “Exorcising the Devil in the Milk.”] Other issues are huge, too. But this one is easy to solve. At modest cost, all dairy herds could be converted to safe A2 cows in about ten years. The attempt at coverup is worth righteous indignation. [Read the book to see otherwise ordinary people participating in a routine coverup.]

  • To be clear, the big effects are on people who have leaky guts. So not everyone will have a big bad effect. But a lot of people have leaky guts.

  • And many people have leaky guts before they realize they have leaky guts. Plus infants are likely to have leaky guts.

  • Note that judgment of size is different from judgment of the amount of evidence for causality. The high correlations and large magnitudes across countries says there is a parameter that we really, really need to know the value of.

  • Although there is reason to think the mean is positive, the large variance of the parameter [due to our ignorance and possible large size], combined with the low cost (relatively to the income of most of us highly educated folks) of drinking A2 milk instead of A1 milk, makes precautionary individual action an easy choice.

  • Interestingly, this particular public health issue has very little to do with the rise in obesity. It is a separate issue.

Don’t miss my other posts on diet and health:

I. The Basics

II. Sugar as a Slow Poison

III. Anti-Cancer Eating

IV. Eating Tips

V. Calories In/Calories Out

VI. Wonkish

VIII. Debates about Particular Foods and about Exercise

IX. Gary Taubes

X. Twitter Discussions

XI. On My Interest in Diet and Health

See the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life" and the podcast "Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation." If you want to know how I got interested in diet and health and fighting obesity and a little more about my own experience with weight gain and weight loss, see “Diana Kimball: Listening Creates Possibilities and my post "A Barycentric Autobiography.