Liking for cheese has been compared to drug addiction, following a recent study conducted by experts at the University of Michigan.
The research, published in the U.S. Library of Medicine, required 500 students to fill out a survey measuring food cravings based on the Yale Food Addiction Scale.
Scientists discovered that participants were more likely to experience food cravings when it came to meals that were heavily processed, such as potato chips and French fries.
These types of items,”which may share characteristics with drugs of abuse (e.g. high dose, rapid rate of absorption) appear to be particularly associated with ‘food addiction’ “, explained the study authors.
Moreover, experts determined that products which are high in fat content resulted in “problematic eating” patterns for most of the surveyed participants, irrespective of the level of their food dependence.
It was determined that pizza was the most popular food item among respondents, while healthier alternatives such as salmon or brown rice weren’t perceived as appealing and tempting.
It may be that the scientific explanation behind pizza’s addictive nature lies in the cheese it features as one of its main ingredients.
Casein, which is present in all dairy products, is especially common in cheese, because it helps coagulate milk fats. Since it takes approximately 10 pounds of milk to produce one pound of cheese, and caseins represent 80 % of the milk proteins, cheese has this compound in very high quantities.
The proteins are responsible for releasing casomorphins, which trigger opiate receptors in the brain. In turn, the activated receptors control reactions related to pleasure, pain, memory and reward.
This is the mechanism through which cheese products eventually cause irrepressible cravings among certain people, even leading to full-blown dependence.
In fact, Dr. Neal Barnard, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, went as far as claiming cheese was actually “dairy crack”.
According to him, the maximum high associated with consuming cheese occurs around 40 minutes after ingestion, and it’s similar to the one experienced when taking drugs.
Aside from this, pizza is addictive because of the sugar present in its tomato sauce, and because of the carbohydrates from its crust, which also influence the brain’s dopamine receptors.
It is estimated the average American consumes around 35 pounds of cheese per year, and this amount is more than triple the value recorded in 1970. Aside from being served as a separate, individual dish, cheese is also slathered on pizza, burritos, sandwiches, omelettes, pasta, salads, quesadillas, and the list can go on and on.
Now it appears that a reason for the undeniable popularity of cheese has finally been found, and insisting that one suffers from “cheese addiction” may not be such a far-fetched claim after all.
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