From the grotesque animal abuse committed by the dairy industry, to the hazardous toll it can take on our bodies—it’s safe to say there’s a lot of bad things about dairy.
However, there is one claim against dairy that is somewhat of an urban legend, and the more it’s repeated the more people believe it is fact. When the truth is that there is NO evidence to support it. I’ll be honest, when I first heard about “casomorphin” I bought into it.
The claim is that dairy products are literally addictive because they contain a morphine-like substance. It is said that these casomorphins exist in cow’s milk so that a calf will crave the milk from its mother.
Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) claims that the morphine in milk is like “dairy crack” and many foods such as dairy, chocolate, and meat contain addictive chemicals that can induce food-specific addictions, like a “cheese addiction.”
In his book Breaking The Food Seduction he says, “Cow’s milk-or the milk of any other species, for that matter-contains a protein, called casein, that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates, called casomorphins.” Barnard claims that “cheese’s popularity may have less to do with its meltability and mouth-feel and more to do with its addictive qualities.” However, the research he cites contradicts this claim.
It should also be noted that casomorphins are also found in human breastmilk. Research on casomophin found that it did not demonstrate “reinforcing properties similar to those of morphine” and concluded that “beta-casomorphin is not likely to become the focus of an addiction.” For example, research on chocolate addiction found that there is no chemical addiction, just an overall sensory “pleasure” from eating chocolate.
As The Vegan Option points out, “There has been a case study linking cow’s milk consumption and sleep apnea but in a larger study of infants who were breast or formula fed they found no difference in average psychomotor development between the two groups.”
The research shows that the caseomorphine chemical found in milk does exist, but it is indistinguishable from any other food cravings.
One real explanation for this so-called “cheese addiction” has to do with The Pleasure Trap. So, why do people have such a hard time giving up cheese? Because we seek pleasurable things and try to avoid painful things. We are designed to consume natural, calorically dense foods, with fiber, in lower concentrations. The processed stuff rings the dopamine circuits of the mind too hard and makes them scream that you are doing the right thing—even if you’re indulging in the wrong foods.
Our “addiction” to consuming pleasurable sugary, salty, and fatty foods is not from the presence of specific psychoactive chemicals, but rather the overall sensory appeal to the food. If you had a morphine like addiction to cheese you would experience withdrawals similar to someone actually addicted to morphine. Have you ever literally had the shakes after going four hours without cheese? Probably not. Because food addiction and an addiction to a powerful drug like morphine are two very different things.
While Dr. Barnard may be wrong in the case against casomorphin, I’m still a big fan of his work. I love what PCRM has done to expose the corruption within the USDA.
In closing, the benefits of a plant based diet outweigh the supposed benefits of dairy. Even if the research shows a “morphine like” addiction to milk does not exist, that’s still not a case to drink milk. I’m simply saying “Check yo facts before educating an others!” #VegansofIG