Pizza, cheese, chips—we can’t keep our mitts off the stuff. And now a study has revealed why we crave them despite all the fat and calories. The gist? They’re as addictive as street drugs.
More specifically, we’re addicted to highly processed, fatty and sugary foods, according to Erica M. Schulte, lead author of the study, which appears in PLOS One published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. She recruited 500 university students, giving them the Yale Food Addiction Scale to determine their level of addiction. Students also ranked their “most addictive foods” from a list of 35 foods, including the usual suspects like ice cream, French fries, cake, pizza, eggs, strawberries and apples. Pizza topped the list of addictive foods, along with chocolate, chips, cookies, ice cream, French fries, cheeseburgers, soda (not diet), cake and cheese. At the bottom: pretzels, plain crackers, water, carrots and cucumbers (no surprise there).
"Fat seemed to be equally predictive of problematic eating for everyone, regardless of whether they experience symptoms of 'food addiction,'" Schulte told News.Mic.
Pizza is especially addictive because of sugar in the tomato sauce. Carbs in the crust will tease our brain's dopamine receptors. These chemicals are linked to addiction.
Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, described cheese as “dairy crack” in the Vegetarian Times. There's a specific ingredient in cheese that gets us hooked—a chemical called casein, Barnard explains. Casein is a protein found in all milk products. During digestion, casein releases opiates called casomorphins. Multiple studies have shown that casomorphins interact with opioid receptors, which are involved in controlling pain, reward and addiction in the brain. Milk has a tiny bit of casein. However, a pound of cheese requires about 10 pounds of milk. The more casein, the more casomorphins. You’re hooked.
That goat cheese in the fridge is calling your name. Maybe it’s the leftover pizza. Will this deter you from wolfing it down? Or is it carpe diem, baby?
Share your secret food addiction. We won’t tell…
- PLOS One: Which foods may be addictive? The roles of processing, fat content, and glycemic load.
- Los Angeles Times: Cheese really is crack. Study reveals cheese is as addictive as drugs.
- News.mic: If You're Basically Addicted to Cheese, There Could Be a Good Reason Why
- Vegetarian Times: Confessions of a Cheeseaholic