Casomorphins, or in the case of cow’s milk, beta-casomorphins, are a form of opioid found in milk. For instance, 80% of cow’s milk protein is casein. After eating milk, casein breaks down in the stomach to produce a peptide opiate, casomorphin.
The distinguishing characteristic of casomorphin is that it has an opioid effect.
The long-term health effects of a diet that is high in casomorphins are not completely clear, but there are some disturbing signs. The question is how much gets out of your gut and into your bloodstream, where casomorphins can reach other parts of your body and bind with opiate receptors, hence causing problems.
They have been linked to brain disorders in the central nervous system, type I diabetes, postpartum psychosis, the formation of LDL cholesterol, food allergies, respiratory and circulatory disorders, sleep apnea, and autism.
Casomorphin and cheese addiction
Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a renowned author of The China Study, states that through his studies he has found casein (from Latin caseus – “cheese”) to be the most relevant cancer promoter ever discovered. Because this protein digests slowly, natural morphine-like substances in it act like opiates in the body as they enter the bloodstream. After a short time after you eat a dairy-based food, the protein begins to break down. This releases the drug-like casomorphins, which attach to opiate receptors in the brain and cause addictions to dairy products.
This explains why some people like cheese so much and why it is so hard to give it up.
Is cheese as addictive as crack?
“In fact, dairy and gluten do act as drugs for many people. Just as with the heroin or pain pill addict, going off casein or gluten immediately can produce withdrawal symptoms.” – Aristo Vojdani, PhD
The protein casein found in cheese is concentrated, and so is the level of casomorphins, therefore the pleasurable effect is greater.
“Since cheese is processed to express out all the liquid, it’s an amazing concentrated source of casomorphins, you might call it dairy crack.” – Neal Barnard, MD
Adverse effects of cow’s milk in infants
The suggestion that the opiate-like effects of a protein in cow’s milk could cause an infant to stop breathing was so provocative that researchers have started testing other high-risk kids.
In a study in which the blood levels of the morphine-like peptides from cow’s milk averaged 3 times higher in infants with acute life-threatening episodes than those in healthy infants. It turns out there is an enzyme that removes casomorphins, but the activity of that enzyme in the affected group was only working at 50% that of the healthy kids. Hence, some infants may just not be able to clear it out of their systems fast enough and are placed at risk for SIDS.
The study concluded – “Penetration of beta-casomorphins into the infant’s immature central nervous system may inhibit the respiratory center in the brainstem leading to abnormal ventilatory responses, hypoxia, hypercapnia, apnea, and death.”
Casomorphins and autism
In another study conducted in Russia, researchers found that a type of casomorphin found in cow’s milk might have a negative impact on human infant development, specifically in a manner resembling autism.
Moreover, Dr. Cade at the University of Florida and Dr. Reichelt in Norway found that urine samples from people with autism, celiac disease, PDD, and schizophrenia contained high amounts of the casomorphin peptide. Researchers have found that these peptides may also be elevated in other disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and depression based on anecdotal reports of symptom remission after total exclusion of dairy and wheat.
Of course, proof of association does not in itself demonstrate proof of causation. Nevertheless, the statistical significance does provide conclusive evidence that the association is real and not just a chance event.
Consuming cheese does not have the same effect on the body as shooting up with heroin, so there’s no need to get carried away. But it is the same thing going on, just to a much lesser degree.