Oreos may be as addictive as cocaine - to lab rats, anyway. That's according to new research from Connecticut College that compared rats' reactions to the sandwich cookies and to drugs.
Oreos may be as addictive as cocaine — to lab rats, anyway. That’s according to new research from Connecticut College that compared rats’ reactions to the sandwich cookies and to drugs.
Joseph Schroeder, assistant professor of neuroscience at Connecticut College, and his students also found that eating the cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than exposure to cocaine or morphine.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat, high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” Schroeder said. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”
Schroeder will present the research next month at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego.
The research was the inspiration of neuroscience major Jamie Honohan, who was interested in the prevalence of obesity in lower-income communities.
“Our goal was to design a study to explore the hypothesis that high-fat, high-sugar foods have the same addictive potential as drugs of abuse,” Honohan said.
Honohan said she chose Oreos because she wanted to use a common grocery product and, she said, some research had shown that rats like Oreos.
In one experiment, rats were given Oreo cookies in one chamber and rice cakes in an adjoining chamber. It was clear, Honohan said, that the rats preferred the Oreos, splitting the cookies apart and devouring the cream, then the cookies. While they often didn’t bother to finish the rice cakes, that wasn’t the case with the Oreos.
In a second experiment, rats were given a shot of cocaine or morphine in one chamber, while they received a shot of saline in the other. Again, the substances were removed and the rats were given the choice of which chamber to spend time in. They favored the drug chamber.
The research showed that cookie-conditioned rats chose to spend as many hours in the Oreos chamber as the drug-conditioned rats spent in the drug chamber.
“Maybe we can approach obesity the same way we address people addicted to drugs, because neurologically, it’s the same,” Honohan said.