There’s a good reason why you just can’t resist reaching for another slice of Stilton.
Scientists claim that cheese is as addictive as drugs because of a chemical called casein.
This is found in dairy products and can trigger the brain’s opioid receptors, which are responsible for addiction.
The study, by the University of Michigan, took a look at which items act as the “drugs of the food world“.
The researchers discovered pizza was one of the world’s most addictive foods, largely because of its cheesy topping.
“Fat seemed to be equally predictive of problematic eating for everyone, regardless of whether they experience symptoms of ‘food addiction,” Erica Schulte, one of the study’s authors, told Mic.
Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said that casein ‘breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates called casomorphins.’
Some scientists believe the influence of cheese is so potent that they refer to it as “dairy crack“.
A number of studies have revealed that casomorphins lock with opioid receptors, which are linked with the control of pain, reward and addiction in the brain.
“[Casomorphins] really play with the dopamine receptors and trigger that addictive element,” registered dietitian Cameron Wells told Mic .
Milk contains a tiny amount of casein in milk, but producing a pound of cheese requires about 10 pounds of milk, so the chemical is ingested in high amounts.
According to the University of Illinois Extension Program, caseins makes up 80 per cent of the proteins in cow milk.
The average person is estimated to eat around 35 pounds of cheese – suggesting that it really as addictive as research claims.
The problem is particularly bad when it comes to highly-processed cheese such as ‘plastic cheese’.
Studies in animals have found that highly processed foods, or foods with added fat or refined carbohydrates, may be capable of triggering addictive eating behaviour.
And people with symptoms of food addiction or with higher body mass indexes have reported greater problems with highly processed foods.
This suggests some may be particularly sensitive to the possible “rewarding” properties of these foods, said Erica Schulte, a U-M psychology doctoral student and the study’s lead author.
“If properties of some foods are associated with addictive eating for some people, this may impact nutrition guidelines, as well as public policy initiatives such as marketing these foods to children,” Schulte said.
Nicole Avena, assistant professor of pharmacology and systems therapeutics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and a co-author on the study, explained the significance of the findings.
“This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response,” she said.
“This could help change the way we approach obesity treatment. It may not be a simple matter of ‘cutting back’ on certain foods, but rather, adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking and drug use.”
Please like, share and tweet this article.
Pass it on: Popular Science