You sigh as you pick up that third piece of pizza, Thinking to yourself, “Should I really do this?” You second guess yourself, and your hand moves slightly to put it back. But, before your resolve crumbles, you eat the slice. What can you say, you love pizza. Everyone loves pizza.
But what is it about pizza that makes it so good? According to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it is the cheese. No kidding right? Americans love cheese, eating almost 35 pounds of cheese per person per year, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Yes, Americans are addicted to cheese, or more specifically one ingredient it contains: Casein.
Casein is a protein found in all mammal milk but it is not the casein itself that is addictive. As the body breaks down this protein, casomorphins are released. These casomorphins are what the body becomes addicted to because they can have similar effects on the body and the brain as drugs like heroin and morphine. The casomorphins can actually cause a sort of ‘high’ with it’s calming effects and they also attach to the brain’s dopamine receptors, triggering the reward section and causing the addiction.
You may be thinking to yourself, “I drink milk all the time, and I don’t feel calm afterward”. Even though, according to the University of Illinois Extension Program, caseins makes up 80 percent of the proteins in cow milk, the milk you drink does not contain enough for it to have much effect. To make one pound of cheese ten pounds of milk is needed. The milk is then processed in a way that removes all liquid, leaving behind the pure concentrated Casein in the cheese.
Even though cheese does have addictive qualities, there is no reason to completely cut it out of a diet. Cheese does contain many nutrients that the body needs and craves: calcium, proteins, and various vitamins. So, yeah, eat that third piece, just maybe spring for the salad next time. Everything in moderation.