Here's Why Exactly Cheese Is So Addictive—& Why It's Worth Giving Up For Your Brain

November 5, 2020

Recently, I came across an article that explained that dairy contains a type of morphine, which is why dairy products are so hard to give up. While this was news to me, after further research I found that it’s certainly not new information. The concept was featured heavily in headlines around 2017, but has been battled between scientists for over 20 years. The Journal of Dairy Science refuted the claim in 1994, stating that although dairy does contain Casomorphine (a type of morphine found in casein), it does not have the same effects as regular morphine. 

The study, conducted in 1994, gathered its evidence from a test carried out on rats that monitored their behavior when administered morphine, Casomorphine, or a placebo. The rats given Casomorphine did not exhibit the same behaviors as those that were given regular morphine. However, a 2018 study called “Role of food-derived opioid peptides in the central nervous and gastrointestinal systems revealed that Casomorphine “exert[s] opioid-like activities.” The study goes on to say, “milk‐derived opioid peptides play both agonistic and antagonistic roles” in central nervous system functions like emotion and memory. In other words, there is a connection between Casomorphine and brain function. 

The aforementioned study reports of the positive affects between food-derived opioids and central nervous system function. However, when we take into consideration the health risks associated with consuming large amounts of dairy, this connection becomes dangerous. An article in Forbes reveals that “a cup of milk contains 7.7 grams of protein, 80% of which is casein. When converted to cheddar, for example, the protein content multiplies 7-fold, to 56 grams. It’s the most concentrated form of casein in any food in the grocery store. Basically, if milk is cocaine, then cheese is crack.” 

In his book, The Cheese Trap, Dr. Neal Barnard expands on the concept that “these opiates attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and morphine attach to.” He writes that Casomorphine is nowhere near as “mind-numbing” as drugs like morphine or heroin, but they do affect the brain the same way, attaching to the same receptors, just in a much smaller way.

This is clearly why cheese is so hard to give up, even when eating it makes you feel sick, bloated, congested, or gassy. The experience is worth the consequence for some. And for others, the repercussions may not be bad, or they simply don’t mind the extra gas in their stomachs. As an early diagnosed lactose-intolerant person (by some definitions, we all are), I never consumed a lot of dairy anyway as I got severe back pain. So giving it up wasn’t a huge problem—perhaps I wasn’t as addicted to Casomorphine as a cheese-with-every-meal eater is. 

Those who are heavily addicted to cheese, like Marilu Henner, who shares her story at the beginning of The Cheese Trap, reported a bulbous nose, severe constipation (17 days worth once), puffy face and neck and extra weight she couldn’t lose no matter how hard she tried. Upon eliminating cheese from her diet, she soon saw all of those symptoms disappear. This isn’t just her story, though. 70% of the world population is lactose intolerant. High consumption of dairy is scientifically linked to eczema, acne, dark circles, puffy eyes, joint pains, asthma, excess mucus, fatigue, and weight loss resistance. Some studies also link excess dairy consumption to breast cancer in women. 

Alongside negative health consequences, consuming dairy has negative environmental and animal consequences as well. However, it also explains why dairy is so difficult to give up. So many people give up dairy only to relapse into binge eating cheese. Hardcore dairy eaters are chemically addicted to consuming dairy, their brains reward them for consuming it, whereas their bodies display irritation and inflammation. 

But the dairy’s addictiveness is not an excuse to keep eating it, it’s a strong reason to give it up.  

Also see: Super Easy DIY Vegan Cheese (Shreddable Meltable)

Vegan Zucchineese (Zucchini Cheese)

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Photo: Nicolas Perondi via Unsplash; Worral, Hartman, Brandt, akyurt all via Unsplash;

Nea Pantry
Nea is a vegan and gluten-free baker currently living in Bermuda. She is a huge vegan foodie, an aspiring writer and a lover of poetry. Traveling often, her goals are to seek out new cultures and experiences, to learn as much as she can and to spread the message of peace, love and kindness always.


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