New research from Connecticut College by psychology professor Joseph Schroeder and four students has found evidence that high fat, high sugar foods can be as addictive as cocaine.
The research came about because the students were interested in understanding how the availability of junk food in low-income areas has contributed to America’s obesity epidemic.
To test how the rats responded to Oreos just like addictive drugs, the team had the rats navigate through a maze. On one side, Oreo cookies were given to the rats, and on the other side rice cakes. The rats were then allowed to choose which side of the maze they wanted to explore. The researchers recorded the amount of time the rats spent on each side.
They then compared these results to rats who were trained with morphine or cocaine rather than Oreos. They found that regardless of what “substance” the rats were offered (Oreos or cocaine) they spent about the same amount of time on the “drug” side of the maze.
“We found that the behavior they exhibited was equally strong for Oreo cookies as it was for cocaine or morphine,” Schroeder, the director of the Behavioral Neuroscience program at Connecticut College, told WCBS 880. “When we looked in the pleasure center of the brain, we found that the Oreo cookies activated the pleasure center more so than cocaine would activate the same center.”
“Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat, high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability,” study designer and neuroscience major Jamie Honohan said in a statement.
Jamie Honohan, another author on the study reported, “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.”
Schroeder told CNN in an e-mail, that the rats eating Oreos experienced more pleasure than the animals being injected with drugs, as measured by activation changes in the nucleus accumbens.
“Taken together, these finding support the hypothesis that consumption of high fat/sugar foods can lead to addictive behaviors and can activate the brain in a similar manner as drugs of abuse,” Schroeder said. “This may, in part, help us to understand why individuals who have trouble controlling their food intake, especially when food options are limited to high fat/sugar options, are more susceptible to obesity.”
If it’s not bad enough that Oreo’s are as addictive as Cocaine, the study also found the rats apparently preferred the creamy vanilla filling to the cookie itself. Said Honohan, “They would break it open and eat the middle first.”
Addicted to Oreos?
Researchers at Connecticut College found rats got more pleasure from Oreos than from drugs.
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