If you’re like me, it can be hard to resist the allure of the tasty, gooey goodness of cheese. Whether it’s in pasta, on a sandwich or just by itself, I often feel like I’m in serious withdrawal if I try and resist the urge to eat cheese.
According to research conducted by the University of Michigan, this feeling may be a result of triggers in the brain that are similar to those dealing with drug addictions.
A recent study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine used the Yale Food Addiction Scale to identify which foods are the most addictive. Pizza was the number one most addictive food, and researchers believe it’s because of the dish’s large amount of cheese.
All cheese and most dairy products have a protein called casein, which releases opiates called casomorphins during the digestive process. Those casomorphins affect your dopamine receptors, which create the addictive feeling that keeps you wanting more.
“Casomorphins attach to the brain’s opiate receptors to cause a calming effect in much the same way heroin and morphine do,” said Vegetarian Times columnist Dr. Neal Barnard. “In fact, since cheese is processed to express out all the liquid, it’s an incredibly concentrated source of casomorphins you might call it dairy crack.”
If you want to avoid these cravings, researchers recommend eating these addictive foods in small portions. As for me, I’ll be busy savoring every precious moment with my extra-cheese pizza.