In a video published last year by Dr. Michael Greger for the website Nutrition Facts, the vegan doctor explains how the breakdown of milk protein may increase some symptoms of autism. Dr. Greger references the findings from a 1980s analysis of autistic children’s response to dairy and gluten. Dr. Greger’s report points to 11 cited studies on the link between dairy consumption and autism.

Dr. Greger states there are two types of opioids that have been found in cow milk, one is casomorphins “in view of their morphine-like activity and their origin.” The other opioid is opiate, better known as morphine — a drug known for its addictive properties. Dr. Greger says morphine and the opioid peptides in milk have an important role in the mother-infant bonding process. Infants should be ‘addicted’ to their own mother’s milk – but addiction to another species’ milk is unnatural.

Human breast milk is very different from other mammals – not only does it have the lowest content of casein but human casein protein is different to others in regard to the sequence of amino acid building blocks it breaks down into.

Cow milk is 15 times higher in casein than human breast milk, differing in terms of their sequences by about 50%, says Greger; and therefore breaking down into peptides in different ways. Five active peptides have been identified in the milk humans produce with one being casomorphin, whereas 21 peptides have been identified in cow casein.

“When you expose human nerve tissue to bovine casomorphin, it acts more like morphine than the casomorphin from human breast milk in terms of epigenetic changes—changes in gene expression,” says Greger. He adds this provides a molecular rationale when recommending breastfeeding instead of feeding human infants cow milk formula. He concludes that bovine-casein-free diets have been recorded to mitigate some symptoms of autism.

“What is good for the goose may be good for the gander,” he says, “but what is good for the cow could be harmful to the human.” 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons