Ever felt like you couldn’t give up cheese? Ever think it might actually be a drug? The surprising news is that as far back as the 1980′s researchers have known that cheese contains trace amounts of morphine. In 1981, Eli Hazum and his colleagues at Wellcome Research Laboratories reported traces of the chemical morphine, a highly addictive opiate. It turns out that morphine is found in cow’s milk and human milk, purportedly to ensure offspring will bond very strongly with their mothers and get all the nutrients they need to grow.
Researchers also discovered the protein casein, which breaks into casomorphins when it is digested and also produces opiate effects. In cheese, casein is concentrated, and so is the level of casomorphins, so the pleasurable effect is greater. Neal Barnard, MD said, “Since cheese is processed to express out all the liquid, it’s an incredibly concentrated source of casomorphins—you might call it dairy crack.” (Source: VegetarianTimes.com)
One research paper states, “Casomorphins are peptides produced from the breakdown of CN and possess opioid activity. The term opioid refers to morphine-like effects which include signs of sedation, tolerance, sleep induction, and depression.” (Source: University of Illinois Extension)
To make matters worse, cheese also contains saturated fat and cholesterol, which contribute to heart disease. One ounce of cheese can contain a large amount of saturated fat (check out this Fat Content of Cheese Chart).
A recent New York Times article states Americans now consume about 33 pounds of cheese each year. Reducing cheese and saturated fat consumption is something anyone can do to prevent heart disease, since “Unhealthy diets and lack of exercise may kill about 300,000 to 500,000 Americans each year.” (Source: Cspinet.org)
But as many know, cutting back on cheese can be challenging because of the good feelings – the opiate effects of casomorphins – it produces.
Chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a former self-described cheese addict said, “You need to give yourself a couple of months without cheese, some time to let your taste buds catch up with your ethics. It might sound like deprivation at first, but your body will adjust.”
“I started loving Brussels sprouts and butternut squash,” Moskowitz said. “I could taste the subtle difference between a raw and a toasted pumpkin seed. Once you figure out that you don’t have to cover everything in cheese, you start to become almost like a supertaster.” (Source: VegetarianTimes)
Read more about health and welfare facts about dairy products in our new fact sheet “How about Humanely Raised Milk and Dairy Products.”