Cheese as crack
Barbara King has an interesting report at NPR:
The average American eats more than 33 pounds of cheese a year.
This is according to Neal Barnard, physician and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. And that’s a problem, he says, because it’s helping to make us overweight and sick.
Barnard’s new book, The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy, is set to hit shelves Tuesday. In it, Barnard writes about cheese in strong terms:
“Loaded with calories, high in sodium, packing more cholesterol than steak, and sprinkled with hormones — if cheese were any worse, it would be Vaseline …
Some foods are fattening. Others are addictive. Cheese is both — fattening and addictive.”
I’d never before thought in terms of dairy products being addictive (with the personal exception of milk chocolate, I admit). Barnard explains that dairy protein — specifically a protein called casein — has opiate molecules built in. When babies nurse, he notes, they’re getting dosed with a mild drug: “Milk contains opiates that reward the baby for nursing.”
It’s no different with the cow’s milk — or other mammalian milk — from which cheese is made. In fact, Barnard says, the process of cheese-making concentrates the casein:
“A cup of milk contains about 7.7 grams of protein, 80 percent of which is casein, more or less. Turning it into Cheddar cheese multiplies the protein count seven-fold, to 56 grams. It is the most concentrated form of casein in any food in the grocery store.
Call it dairy crack.”
The U.S. produces more cheese than any other country in the world, according to Barnard.
The big issue, he says, is that cheese lovers aren’t just addicted to a delicious food, they’re addicted to one that may seriously contribute to health problems. He cites studies in the book that tie eating cheese to weight gain and risks of numerous diseases.
Barnard suggests that giving up cheese is associated, for example, with relief of asthma symptoms. In an email, Barnard summarized the case for this association this way: . ..
My own favorite cheese currently is Chimay.