The Cheese Trap: Fighting Diabetes with a Dairy-Free Diet
Have you ever felt pulled to a certain food? Maybe it’s chocolate, potato chips, a hamburger, or a bowl of ice cream. For some people, it’s cheese.
After 30 years of conducting clinical research studies and prescribing the same approach—a low-fat vegan diet—to participants eager to lose extra weight, lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, alleviate headaches and joint pain, and feel great again, I always get pushback about the same food: cheese.
Parting ways with this ultra-processed substance, which smells like the bacteria it is, seems harder than eliminating chicken, turkey, yogurt, fish, and milk, which collectively don’t have the same gravitational pull as cheddar, mozzarella, feta, and baked brie.
Part of this habitual preference is neurological. As cheese digests it may release tiny molecules, casomorphins, that can bind to dopamine receptors in our brain. This “feel good” chemical reaction looks similar to any other dopamine trigger, from alcohol and drug use to exercise or listening to music. The casomorphins in cheese may be what drives pizza, along with its hyperpalatable state, to the No. 1 spot on the Yale Food Addiction Scale.
While this neurological tangle isn’t as potent as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, it’s still present and lingers in our minds. It’s also entrenched in our society. We consume 37 pounds of cheese, per person, each year. This is nearly twice the amount of cheese we consumed, per person, in 1975.
The dairy industry’s marketing wizards do a good job: they sell their products, keep us coming back, and Continue reading