NYC Mayor Stirs Controversy With Bold Claim About Cheese Addiction

A bowl of extra cheesy mac and cheese can be irresistible, and the smell of a classic NYC pizza slice is enough to make your mouth water — but are these cheese-heavy foods actually addicting? New York City mayor Eric Adams certainly believes so. Insider reports that while serving himself a bowl of plant-based chili during a press conference, Mayor Adams, an outspoken vegan, took a moment to comment on the addictive nature of cheese. Cheese, he claimed, is as addictive as heroin. "You take someone on heroin, put them in one room, and someone hooked on cheese, put 'em in another room, and you take it away, I challenge you to tell me the person who's hooked on heroin and who's hooked on cheese," Adams said during the press conference.

Insider suggested Adams could be referencing a 2015 study conducted by the University of Michigan. The study found that some highly processed foods "may share characteristics with drugs of abuse." Participants self-reported "addictive-like eating behaviors based on the DSM-IV criteria for substance dependence." Many however, misinterpreted the results of the study.

Naturally, this statement from Adams received a decent amount of criticism online, with doctors and other Twitter users calling him out for the offensive comparison.

Is cheese addictive?

According to TIME, Mayor Eric Adams' off-the-cuff comment (an Insider's suggestion it was based on that food addiction study) isn't as out-there as you might think. Back in 2015, the University of Michigan study went viral with clickbaity headlines that compared cheese to drugs. This ultimately perpetuated a myth about how cheese is as addictive as narcotics, despite the study having made no such claim.

The study instead compared different types of food with varying levels of added fats and refined carbohydrates. In the end, it was found that the more processed ingredients or added sugar a food contained, the higher its self-reported addictive qualities were. Chocolate and ice cream for example, were ranked the highest, while fruits and vegetables were among the lowest. Cheese on the other hand, was right around the middle.

That means that people have a harder time saying no to cheese than other foods, but it is still nowhere near as addictive as heroin. So while you could definitely be "hooked on cheese" as the mayor stated, it would have more to do with how it tastes, rather than a real addiction.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).