The Similarities Between Cheese Addiction and Opiate Addiction
Putting Cheese In Perspective
Cheese addiction sounds laughable to many. Cheeses such as brie, gouda, cheddar, Saint Andre, and various romantic cheeses are a component to luxurious first dates, acting as an aphrodisiac. Cheese is notably an art to food connoisseurs worldwide. Of course, food cravings due to stress, pregnancy, or general snacking habits are normal. Addiction, as in, that unnerving tingly sensation an addict gets in their hands for Kraft cheese or decadent cheese served with wine seems abnormal.
The science behind cheese and opiate addiction resides in biology. Besides the common narrative of processed foods such as french fries and Fritos aiding to eye-popping cravings, cheese is special compared to the dopamine ignition of other foods.
The Dairy Process
Milk contains a biological protein called casein. When casein is broken up in the gut via digestion, it becomes a peptide fragment known as beta-casomorphin-7. Casomorphin is technically an opiate, the data investigating the potency of casein in milk is still widely debated amongst scientists. Ongoing research prioritizing the prevalence of biological activity derived from milk proteins by the University of Illinois Extension Program concludes caseins make up 80% of cows' milk.
In order to create one pound of cheese, 10 pounds of milk must be fermented and coagulated, the more the casein, the higher the casomorphin that will be produced during digestion. Cheese is bacterially cultured and condensed for flavor.
Why Are There Natural Opiates in Dairy?
All mammalians have casein in their breast milk. Why? Because opiates are a biological imperative for the survival of offspring. Reason one being that the offspring must have a desire to want milk from the mother and reason two being that it serves as a bonding experience between mother and offspring. Lastly, milk provides a stabilizing necessity to continually reproduce.
Humans have the same protein quality in their milk. An experience after breastfeeding, commonly referred to as "milk drunk", demonstrates how irritable babies were soothed after their feedings. The meal is so fulfilling to the child that they fall asleep in a euphoric haze. Casomorphin noticeably has a calming effect, alleviating stress on newborns.
Interestingly, cheese has been used to help adults sleep better at night. Evidently, small portions comprised of reduced-fat cheese induce a comfortable sleep.
Approximating other factors such as genetics, how the cheese is stored before shipment, and manufacturing inaccuracies, cheese has addictive properties. Withdrawal symptoms have also been documented by those transitioning into paleo, vegetarian, and vegan diets. Considering the neurobiological and neurochemical variables in these enzymes, there is a hypothesized chemical and emotional bond to cheese exemplified in adults.
How Does This Affect the Brain?
Chemically identical to drug usage but not necessarily the same, the casomorphin is an opiod, engaging the nucleus accumbens along with the remaining pleasure-reward circuit of the brain. The opiods attach themselves to the brains’ opiod receptor. This creates a pleasurable response and a feeling of euphoria, inducing dopamine.
Food scientists have very little funding to further delve into what Dr. Neal Bernard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine calls the product “dairy crack”. Even rock star, Courtney Love has confessed her 25-year-old addiction to cheese, brie in particular. Accounting for Loves’ past drug use, she demonstrates neurochemical vulnerability to the addiction. Surprisingly, brie and a few soft consistency cheeses are stronger in casomorphin than hard consistency cheeses like cheddar.
Have You Ever Experienced Cheese Addiction?
Breaking the Dependency on Cheese
As previously stated, addiction to cheese is not exactly identical to heroin, it does have the same element of opiates as illustrated in codeine.
Developing studies on the benefits and disadvantages of cheese are still debated in the science and health field. While cheese has been noted to prevent cavities, supply bountiful nutrients, and the evolving controversial study highlighting the pros to saturated fat. A major disadvantage to cheese is how casomorphins tend to delay intestinal movements, causing constipation. Opiate painkillers have the same reaction.
If the cheese support group is not working out, there are a myriad of cheesy substitutes that leave the whey out entirely. Whey is frequent in vegetarian foods, it is casein as well. Homemade cheeses are common in paleo diets. A few examples of the array of flavorful duplicates include zucchini cheese, cashew cheese, and macadamia nut ricotta.
A fundamental understanding of individual dietary needs provides exceptional information pertaining to the expanding studies of nutritional science. Although, there remains conflict in discerning the dietary discretions in cheese and ultimately all dairy products, there is an objective chemical correlation between the brain responses to opiates and cheese in the body.