Most people don’t need a valid excuse to eat that third slice of pizza, but a recent study has found that this craving could actually be rooted in chemical addiction.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. National Library of Medicine recently published a study from the University of Michigan. The researchers aimed to discover why certain foods seem to be more addictive than others.
As part of their research, the study’s authors utilized the Yale Food Addiction Scale, which was designed to diagnose food addictions. After 500 people completed the Food Addiction Scale survey, researchers then identified the most addictive foods for each subject.
As most would expect, pizza topped the list of most addictive foods. While the crust, sauce, and toppings are certainly alluring, researchers targeted one specific component of pizza for its addictive qualities: cheese.
Cheese is particularly addictive because it is made with casein, a protein found in all milk products. During digestion, casein releases opiates called casomorphins, giving addicts a “high” similar to actual opiates.
“[Casomorphins] really play with the dopamine receptors and trigger that addictive element,” said registered dietitian Cameron Wells.
OregonLive.com also reported on the study, noting that this chemical dependency to cheese is real and cannot be treated with mere willpower.
“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,” said Nicole Avena, co-author of the study.
While there aren’t many substance abuse programs focusing on cheese addiction at present, there are some new alternative treatment options available. For instance, ibogaine therapy can give opiate addicts an “epiphany” of sorts, allowing them to conquer their dependency and start life with a clean slate.
“Our founders have had a small mountain of research published in peer-reviewed medical journals which can be found via PubMed, demonstrating ibogaine’s effectiveness in interrupting a wide spectrum of addictive behaviors and substance abuse disorders,” said Arnold Hesnod, Clinical Outreach, Clear Sky Recovery.
According to The Sun, there is actually some precedent for severe cheese addiction, and it’s no laughing matter.
Kai Thomas, a 15-year-old from Chesterfield, England, woke up from a coma with an extreme addiction to cheese and swearing. His mother claims that she overheard him cursing loudly one day in his bedroom, only to find him eating an entire block of cheese when she entered his room.
As Ibogaine and other drugs continue to help those who suffer from drug addiction, perhaps this study will finally lead to an increased focus on food addiction in the medical community.