Kaminski S, Cieslinska A, Kostyra E. (2007) J Appl Genet. 48(3) 189-98
Proteins in bovine milk are a common source of bioactive peptides. The peptides are released by the digestion of caseins and whey proteins.
In vitro the bioactive peptide beta-casomorphin 7 (BCM-7) is yielded by the successive gastrointestinal proteolytic digestion of bovine beta-casein variants A1 and B, but this was not seen in variant A2. In hydrolysed milk with variant A1 of beta-casein, BCM-7 level is 4-fold higher than in A2 milk.
Variants A1 and A2 of beta-casein are common among many dairy cattle breeds. A1 is the most frequent in Holstein-Friesian (0.310-0.660), Ayrshire (0.432-0.720) and Red (0.710) cattle. In contrast, a high frequency of A2 is observed in Guernsey (0.880-0.970) and Jersey (0.490-0.721) cattle.
BCM-7 may play a role in the aetiology of human diseases. Epidemiological evidence from New Zealand claims that consumption of beta-casein A1 is associated with higher national mortality rates from ischaemic heart disease. It seems that the populations that consume milk containing high levels of beta-casein A2 have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 1 diabetes. BCM-7 has also been suggested as a possible cause of sudden infant death syndrome.
In addition, neurological disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, seem to be associated with milk consumption and a higher level of BCM-7. Therefore, careful attention should be paid to that protein polymorphism, and deeper research is needed to verify the range and nature of its interactions with the human gastrointestinal tract and whole organism.
For an accessible summary of the latest research evidence on the health implications of A1 cows' milk (and the opioid peptide BCM-7 produced during its digestion), see the latest edition of Devil In the Milk, by Professor Keith Woodford.