We all know Oreos are addictive, but a new study suggests that the cookies are as addicting as actual drugs ... at least in the way the brain responds to them.
The “pleasure center” of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, apparently gets just as activated in response to Oreos as it does to cocaine and morphine.
That could certainly have some pretty major public health implications if Oreos were as damaging to one's system as the aforementioned narcotics.
They're not, of course, and the study was only done in rats. However, the Connecticut College authors say it’s likely relevant to humans as well.
It could explain, they say why people have such a hard time resisting eating an entire sleeve of the cookies after they've set out just to eat one.
The study, to be presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference, also claims that rats, like humans, like to eat Oreo’s creamy center first.
To test how the animals responded to Oreos vs. drugs, the team trained mice to navigate a maze. On one side, Oreos were provided. On the other? Rice cakes.
As you’d guess, the rats were more likely to spend time on the Oreo side. Rats treated with morphine or cocaine rather than Oreos reacted similarly.
They found that regardless of what “substance” the rats were offered (Oreos, coke, or morphine) they spent about the same time on the “drug” side.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” professor Joseph Schroeder said.
“It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods," he added, echoing a common refrain, "despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”
The research may thus bear some relevance to public health issues, namely the fact that high-calorie foods are often low-priced and highly addictive.
And the fallout from poor eating behaviors can be as dramatic as that from drugs, said the authors, even if the risk of death from one usage is lower.