While most of us would agree that cheese is a delicious snack, I doubt that many of us would identify this dairy delight as a potentially addictive substance.
Scientists now beg to differ, as they have found a chemical called casein in cheese, which they know to have addictive properties. The University of Michigan’s research team found that casein was capable of activating opioid receptors in the brain, which are linked to pain control, reward and addiction.
When casein is digested, it breaks apart and releases an array of opiates, known as casomorphins. The casomorphins then lock into the brain’s opioid receptors, in a similar method to some of the world’s most potent illicit drugs, such as crack cocaine.
Once locked in, the casomorphins can cause the release of dopamine, which is one of the ways in which drugs become addictive. During the production of cheese the casein in milk gets concentrated, meaning that when you eat cheese you get a much larger hit of casein than you would in the same amount of milk.
Interestingly, the study found that highly processed cheese is likely to be more addictive. This is because it’s pumped full of added fat and refined carbohydrates, which are more likely to trigger addictive eating.
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