About a year ago, scientists proved that cheese is as addictive as drugs.
Cheese contains casein (as do all dairy products), which triggers the brain's opioid receptors which are linked to addiction. The same goes for processed foods and fatty foods, but cheese is the highest ranked on the addiction scale. Foods with a higher fat content are linked to addictive-like eating, which is why it can be hard to stop eating junk food.
"[Casomorphins] really play with the dopamine receptors and trigger that addictive element," says Cameron Wells, a registered dietitian. Some experts go so far as to call cheese "dairy crack."
Universally, cheese is looked at as unhealthy, but a new study shows that it actually could be way better for us than we think.
Researchers from China and the Netherlands took data from 15 studies involving more than 200,000 people in order to observe how long-term cheese consumption affects a person's rick for cardiovascular disease.
According to Dr. Allan Stewart, the results were "certainly different from what people might expect." People who consumed a high level of cheese had a 14% less chance of coronary heart disease. They were also 10% less likely to have a stroke than those who rarely or never ate cheese.
"There is some evidence that cheese"”as a substitute for milk, for example"”may actually have a protective effect on the heart," says Stewart. "No one's saying you should definitely go out and eat 40 grams of cheese a day. But on the upside, a bit of cheese on a cracker doesn't sound unreasonable."
Before you get excited, though, there are limits.
"This is not the same as eating a big slice of cheesy pizza every day," says Dr. Stewart.
The different types of cheeses weren't studied, but the researchers didn't rule it out in the future.
"We're always are searching for ways to minimize heart disease and reduce atherosclerosis," he says. "It's promising to find that something that actually tastes good"”and pairs well with a nice glass of red wine"”may offer some protection, as well."