You can see the addicts standing in line in fast food lobbies, drooling, waiting for their cheeseburgers or pizzas, and at supermarkets frenziedly grabbing 12 packs of macaroni and cheese off of the shelves for their kids, or digging up spare change and pocket lint to buy string cheese at the corner party store. They're ravenous! Cheese addiction is a silent addiction, although it is a rank addiction; most people addicted to cheese are unaware of their addiction, or that cheese can be addicting. A sobering fact: we produce more cheese in a year (18 million metric tons!) than coffee, tea, cocoa, and tobacco put together (Wikipedia). Why are we so addicted?

Simply put, cheese is a drug and most of us are filthy addicts. I know that if it wasn't for cheese's intoxicating allure, I'd be a true vegan by now. Research shows that giving up cheese is one of the hardest parts of following a vegan diet (Vegetarian Blues). Of course, I'll tell myself that I'm eating this slice of cheese because I need the protein, but really, there's just one protein in particular I'm craving: casein. Casein, a protein in cheese, is metabolized into casomorphin, an opioid, in the human body, acting on our opioid receptors similarly to how opiates from the opium poppy act, a not so insignificant side effect of which is light euphoria. It's worth noting that fat, sugar, and chocolate are also believed to produce varying levels of opioid-like effects in the brain.

Cheese has the highest concentration of casein of all dairy products, making it the heroin (heroine?) of the dairy world. Without the water present in milk, cheese is just fat and proteins. This addictive combination no doubt helped make burgers and pizza staple foods in the American diet. No, you won't get high from eating obscene amounts of limburger cheese (fun Salvador Dali anecdotes aside), but cheese does have a perceptible comforting effect. If you've ever ate too much cheesy pizza on a lazy Sunday afternoon, then you know what I'm talking about. And don't think for a second that these facts are lost on for-profit corporations like McDonald's and Pizza Hut, who want us to eat their food as much as humanly possible.

Studies show that giving people naloxone, a potent opiate blocker/antagonist, noticeably reduces their cravings for cheese (as well as chocolate). As the age of overpopulation unavoidably brings the threat of massive of food shortages to the glorious American shores, will we one day need cheese addiction clinics to administer naloxone and other powerful drugs to shaky cheese junkies in withdrawal? Keep in mind that it takes roughly 3 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of cheese (BNET). Cheese would become a luxury as opposed to the staple food it is today. The images haunt me.

Perhaps the line between what is a drug and what isn't a drug, what you thought you knew about yourself and the truth, will always be blurred beyond recognition.

Next: The Insanely Devious Design of the Snicker's Bar.

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