Can't keep your hands out of the Oreo package? We know, we know - you can't help it, they're addictive!
A study done by Connecticut College students found that lab rats who ate Oreos made just as strong an association between the sweet treat and their environment as rats who were injected with cocaine or morphine, reported the Hartford Courant Tuesday.
Not only that, the students found the Oreos lit up the "pleasure centers" of the rats' brains more than the drugs did.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” Connecticut College neuroscience professor Joseph Schroeder said in a press release. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”
In the study, hungry rats had to get through a maze to get something to eat; an Oreo on one side, a rice cake on the other. After the rats chose a side, the students recorded the amount of time spent there. The rats who ate Oreos spent much more time where they found the cookie than the rats who ate the rice cake.
Then, the results were compared with an earlier study measuring the time rats spent in an area of a maze after receiving injections of cocaine or morphine on one side and saline on the other.
The students found that the rats who ate Oreos spent as much time on that side of the maze as the rats who got the drug injections.
Neuroscience major Jamie Honohan created the study to examine how consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods relates to obesity in low-income communities.
“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.”
To figure out just how addictive the cookies and drugs were, the study used immunohistochemistry to measure the neural activity in the rats' brains after consumption, and found the Oreos sparked even more activity in the "pleasure center" than the cocaine or morphine.
“This correlated well with our behavioral results and lends support to the hypothesis that high-fat/ high-sugar foods are addictive,” said Schroeder.
Honohan sees the study results as a source of insight into how to battle the nation's obesity problem.
"Maybe we can approach obesity the same way we address people addicted to drugs, because neurologically, it's the same," she said. "Oreos and other high-fat, high-sugar foods have this potential to be just as addicting as drugs of abuse."