Can you be addicted to cheese? Are opiate-like caseomorphins to blame or something else?

Can you be addicted to cheese?

A few days ago, a friend challenged me to go vegan for a day! While I've been a lax vegetarian (lax as in sometimes eating fish) for well over 15 years, I've never ever gone further and banned all animal-derived products from my diet. The most obvious ones being dairy and honey.

Save the bees!

Of the two, giving up honey makes the most sense, knowing how much work these hard working bees that are in fact, even an endangered species put into making honey. Given how important these adorable little insects are for nearly every plant species that needs pollination, it makes sense to think about building a so-called 'bee hotel' for them when you happen to have a lot of flowers and trees in your garden and aren't afraid of bees.

By chance, this weekend will be devoted to the first 'National Bee counting Day' on which Dutch citizens aree encouraged to count the amount of bees in your garden and if possible, specify which of the 100+ species it may be.

My response to giving up dairy was a lot more visceral! It was like "you will need to pry it out of my cold dead fingers!"
With 'it' I am referring to most dairy products, with cheese, yoghurt and ice cream as the main comfort foods.
But is addiction to cheese a real thing? Or bread for that matter?

Cheese = cocain?

You'd say there is truth to this idea, especially because both cheese and wheat share opiate-like qualities, with respectively caseomorphins and gluteomorphins. To be more precise in the case of cheese, the caseomorphins are being produced while being digested.
As a matter of fact, this 'discovery' wasn't exactly new, but a few years ago, one such study made headlines!
Among the headlines: “Cheese Is as Addictive as Cocaine,” “Cheese Really Is Crack,” and “Study Finds That Cheese Is Just as Addictive as Drugs.”

Well, guess what, the creator of these exaggarated claims turn out to be working for a advocacy group, called Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which pushes veganism and urges people to shun cheese!
The message went viral because it is not so strange to believe how cheese can be addictive!

But in reality, the most addictive type of dairy is processed dairy with added sugar and/or salt. Very few of us are addicted to plain milk or yoghurt which also contain casein.
People have 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.
Processed foods 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 caseomorphins are not the villains we thought them to be, are they completely innocent and off the hook? Not entirely.
There are numerous reports on how types of milk differ in their digestibility and allergy symptoms they are likely to produce.


Even when just looking at cow's milk there are two main types: A1 and A2 milk.
A2 milk contains A2-beta-casein protein while regular milk contains both A1 and A2 beta-casein protein.
With exactly 1 amino acid being different (histidine in A1, proline in A2), type A1 will cause the body to produce beta-caseomorphin while A2-milk will not. It is also suggested the A2 milk is a lot easier to digest.
While the cow used most for large-scale milk production, the Friesian-Holstein cow, produces both A1- and A2 milk, another cow, the Jersey cow predominantly produce milk with A2-type beta casein.
While milk cartons displaying 'A2-milk' never caught on like they did in New Zealand where A2 milk was first mearketed, cartons with the cuter Jersey' cows having the very same A2-type of milk are here to stay.

Goat's milk is best

However, when it comes to allergy response and digestibility you will need too look away from cow's milk and go over to goat's milk which by now is also more widely available.
In a recent study of infants allergic to cow’s milk found that 93% of them were able to drink goat’s milk with absolutely no allergic reaction! The ease of digestibility is also due to the high amount of medium-chain fatty acids.

While sheep's milk is as easily digested as goat's milk with few allergy issues, sheep's milk is much harder to find, if only because sheep aren't as easy to milk as goats are and as a result, sheep's milk can't be mass-produced. You may still want to try and find it, as reputedly sheep's milk wins when it comes to taste and flavour.

Because the benefits of dairy outweigh the disadvantages, I'd sooner advice to switch to goat's or sheep's dairy products than to avoid dairy altogether.

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