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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Mimi

Casein is a milk protein found in human breast milk and cow’s milk.

Casein and Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that typically strikes children and young adults. Both genetics and external factors play a role in the disease. Certain casein proteins break down into casomorphin. The opiate-like casomorphin from the more concentrated casein in cow’s milk may contribute to health conditions, including altering immune function and perhaps increasing susceptibility to infections that may trigger type 1 diabetes.

Casein’s Role in Weight Gain

The excessive protein in cow’s milk–based formula may set children up for obesity later in life. For example, a 2012 Journal of Nutrition study found that teens exposed to dairy proteins, such as casein, skim milk, or whey, experienced a significant increase in their body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference compared to controls. The casein in milk may increase abdominal fat: compared to milk protein, the protein in soy prevents the increase in abdominal fat observed with the milk protein casein.

Casein and Artery Function

Tea is associated with lower heart disease risk, but if you add milk to tea, the casein in the milk completely prevents the biological activity of the tea in terms of improvement in the function of the endothelium, which is the inner lining of our blood vessels.

Casein’s Role in Infant Apnea and Crib Death

Casein’s opiate-like peptide casomorphin may play a role in attacks of infant apnea (when babies stop breathing) and may trigger pseudo-allergic reactions and other abnormalities seen in crib death (sudden infant death syndrome). Casamorphin in cow’s milk may have effects similar to morphine and may inhibit the respiratory center in babies’ brain stems, which could lead to abnormal breathing, apnea, and death.


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