WASHINGTON – “Just one more.”
Do you say that to yourself after you’ve eaten a handful of Oreos? And do you go for the middle first?
If you do, you’re not alone. Rats also go right for the creamy white center of “America’s favorite cookie.”
A study by Connecticut College students and a professor of neuroscience used Oreos and rats to test the addictiveness of high-fat/high-sugar foods.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” said Joseph Schroeder, the professor conducting the research.
“It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”
The study found eating Oreos activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than drugs of abuse.
To test the addictiveness of the cookies, one side of a maze had Oreos and the other side rice cakes. The hungry rats had the option of spending time on either side of the maze and chose the side with the Oreos, eating them by breaking them apart and going for the middle first.
The students compared the results with rats given cocaine or morphine on one side of a maze and saline on the other. Rats conditioned with Oreos spent as much time on the maze’s cookie side as those given the drugs.
Neuroscience major Jamie Honohan said she wanted to know the effects of high-fat/high-sugar foods that are heavily marketed to low-income communities.
“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,” Honohan said.
The results will be presented next month at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego.