Doug Greene, WVIT and NBC News staff NBC News
Bob MacDonnell / Connecticut College
Oreos are as addictive as cocaine, at least for lab rats, and just like us, they like the creamy center best.
Eating the sugary treats activates more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than drugs such as cocaine, the team at Connecticut College found.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” neuroscience assistant professor Joseph Schroeder says. “That may be one reason people have trouble staying away from them and it may be contributing to the obesity epidemic.”
Schroeder’s neuroscience students put hungry rats into a maze. On one side went rice cakes. “Just like humans, rats don’t seem to get much pleasure out of eating them,” Schroeder said. On the other side went Oreos.
Then the rats got the option of hanging out where they liked.
They compared the results to a different test. In that on, rats on one side if the maze got an injection of saline while those on the other side got injections of cocaine or morphine.
Rats seems to like the cookies about as much as they liked the addictive drugs. When allowed to wander freely, they’d congregate on the Oreo side for about as much time as they would on the drug side.
Oh, and just like most people – the rats eat the creamy center first.
“These findings suggest that high fat/sugar foods and drugs of abuse trigger brain addictive processes to the same degree and lend support to the hypothesis that maladaptive eating behaviors contributing to obesity can be compared to drug addiction,” Schroeder’s team writes in a statement describing the study, to be presented at the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego next month.
“It really just speaks to the effects that high fat and high sugar foods and foods in general, can have on your body. The way they react in your brain, that was really surprising for me,” says Lauren Cameron, a student at Connecticut College who worked on the study.
“I haven’t touched an Oreo since doing this experiment,” Schroeder says.