Sir, Step Away From The Cheese And Put Your Hands Up: Fatty Foods Found To Have Similar Addictive Effects On The Brain As Drugs
Turns out cheese heads are a real thing.
No, not the rabid Packers fans who take over Wisconsin every fall wearing their trademark plastic wedges of swiss cheese atop their head. No, this is something very different.
A recent University of Michigan study has revealed evidence that the brain may react in similar ways to certain foods as it does to drugs.
The study looked at the phenomenon of certain foods being more addictive than others. Researchers interviewed 500 people who completed a survey based on the Yale Food Addiction Scale, a list of 35 various foods which is designed to measure if someone has a food addiction. From that data, the authors compiled a list of what people considered to be addictive foods.
Pizza, naturally, ran away with the contest, winding up on top of the heap of the most addictive food list. But just because everyone has been conditioned to love pizza from childhood on doesn’t mean that there isn’t some science behind the way we feel about it.
The secret, according to the study’s authors, is in the cheese.
The secret weapon of cheese, if you will, is casein, a protein that is found in all dairy products. And what happens when the body processes casein during digestion is that it causes the body to release what are called casomorphins. These substances bind with “opioid gates,” which are associated with the reward mechanism in the brain, and help control pain. Thus they affect dopamine receptors and trigger an addictive reaction.
But it wasn’t only cheese and the casein it contains that turned out to be the culprit of addictive eating in this study. The researchers also looked at foods that were highly processed, ranked high on the glycemic index, and which contained high levels of fat, as these types of foods ranked highly in the study participant’s responses.
According to Erica Shulte, one of the study’s authors, fat content as well as the more refined and processed a food was predicted problem eating, even without the individual participant showing any previous signs of food addiction.
So next time you feel like you just have to have one more slice of pizza, or you find yourself behaving like one of those mindless potato chip eating idiots on a commercial, you will know why: you are being fed food that is literally addictive, in the same way that opium is addictive to the brain.
Maybe try some carrots next time. Nobody ever got addicted to carrots, except maybe Bugs Bunny.