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Is Cheese Really Crack?

Last week, the Internet exploded over a viral news story about how cheese may or may not be as addictive as hard drugs. But once we started digging into the study, some things didn’t match up. Here’s what you need to know:

Yes, processed foods are more addictive than whole foods. What the University of Michigan study found was that highly processed foods (like cheese but not exclusively so) have the same pharmacokinetic properties (namely, the rapid rates of absorption) as abusive drugs. They’re saying that processed foods are more associated with food addictions than, say, fruits and veggies…

But they aren’t exactly saying that cheese is crack. Some news sites are now saying that the researchers are uncomfortable with the crack comparisons for media sensationalism.

So where did “dairy crack” come from? That term is actually from a different source--Dr. Neal Barnard, the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (who is also publicizing his book 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart). He explained to Thrillist that he refers to it as “dairy crack” because of a highly concentrated protein called casein. When the body attempts to digest casein it does not entirely break down, and it forms strings of amino acids called casomorphins. Those casomorphins affect opioid and dopamine receptors in the brain similarly to how heroin or morphine interacts with the brain.

Our take? Perhaps a “cheese coma” is real. But suggesting a 12-step program for polishing off a grown-ass grilled cheese sandwich seems a little extreme.

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