A Connecticut college study recently discovered that the infamous Oreo cookies we all love to eat have the same addictive effect on the brains of mice as cocaine and morphine. Whether they have the same exact effect on humans is still to be determined. However, the mice did show they enjoy eating the middle first just like most humans do.
The study was conducted by Joseph Schroeder, associate professor of psychology and director of the behavioral neuroscience program, and some of his students. The brainchild of the experiments was neuroscience major Jamie Honahan who just wanted to understand how the prevalence of high-fat and high-sugar foods affected low income neighborhoods and how it contributes to the epidemic of obesity.
According to conncoll.edu.
“'My research interests stemmed from a curiosity for studying human behavior and our motivations when it comes to food,' said Honohan. 'We chose Oreos not only because they are America’s favorite cookie, and highly palatable to rats, but also because products containing high amounts of fat and sugar are heavily marketed in communities with lower socioeconomic statuses.'”
It appears the rats were given a control food, namely the not so appealing rice cake on one side of the maze, and Oreo cookies on the other side of the maze. The test revealed the mice didn't particularly like rice cakes, but they did enjoy the Oreos. They measured the time spent on each side for scientific reasons, then they then let the mice choose which side they wanted to linger in and measured that.
To finish the study they did the same test, only instead of Oreo cookies they injected the mice with either morphine or cocaine, and on the other side they gave the mice a saline injection. The results were amazing. The mice spent the same amount of time where they got their fix. It didn't matter if it was Oreo cookies or cocaine, the mice stayed the same amount of time where the addictive substance was given.
One shocking difference is when they recorded the neurons in the “pleasure center” in the brain and found the Oreo cookies activated substantially more neurons than either 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.'”
However relevant to science this is or isn't, time will tell as the research and studies are set to continue. It is something to consider next time you reach for that high-fat, high-sugar treat. Will you be able to stop at just one serving? Just knowing it could be as addictive as cocaine or morphine gives the general public a new way of thinking about junk food.
There are many questions still to be answered. Do Oreos effect humans exactly the same way as rats? Are humans ready to be told what to or what not to eat? Will a “see, I can't help it” syndrome arise amongst obese people creating a “victim mentality” amongst those affected, or will the science help? What next, laws regulating junk food manufacturing or perhaps distribution? Will the public let “science” dictate? Could this lead to healthier snacks available to all people? Will you still eat Oreos? You decide.
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