Cheese craving is a real thing, and new research supports cheese addiction. A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan determined that “cheese crack” is real – and so is your addiction. The study found that certain foods, particularly highly processed foods, are more “addictive” than other foods. The research also indicates that some foods get people “hooked” by acting on the areas of the brain typically associated with drug addiction.

The study set out to determine why certain foods appear to be more addictive than others. To do so, researchers surveyed about 500 students and questioned their behaviors and attitudes about certain foods. The students were specifically questioned as to whether certain foods caused addictive-like tendencies – such as having difficulty cutting back on the foods or experiencing trouble to stop eating the foods at one sitting.  The students also completed the Yale Food Addiction Scale.

Unsurprisingly, the results found that pizza was the most addictive food. Pizza was followed by chocolate, chips, cookies and ice cream.

Cucumbers, carrots, beans and apples were rated as the least addictive.

The reason that people are addicted to pizza has to do with the cheese. Cheese is particularly addictive because it contains a protein found in all milk products called casein. When a person digests casein, certain opiates called casomorphins are released in the body. Registered dietitian, Cameron Wells, stated that, “[Casomorphins] really play with the dopamine receptors and trigger that addictive element.”

The study also found that foods that were highly processed and fatty were the most addictive. Dr. Holly Phillips explained that, “Importantly, they also have something called a high glycemic load and this is in part a measure of how fast and intensely the foods raise your blood sugar.”

Despite the research, the concept of food addiction is a highly debated topic in the medical community. Phillips pointed out that, unlike drug addiction, which causes certain changes in the brain that do not go away, food addiction currently is not a recognized medical condition.

Phillips stated that, “We don’t know if food does that yet. What we do know is both food and drugs can cause behaviors that are very similar to addiction – the inability to cut down, continued use despite negative consequences, a sense of a loss of control – so they clearly have some similarities.”

The results of the study were published in the United States National Library of Medicine.

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