Oreo Cookies as Addictive as Crack: Study

Thursday, 17 Oct 2013 04:07 PM

By Nick Tate

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It's official: Oreos are as addictive as crack. So say researchers from Connecticut College who determined high-fat and high-sugar foods trigger "pleasure centers" in the brains of laboratory rats in ways that are markedly similar to the effects of cocaine and morphine.
 
The study, conducted by professor of neuroscience Joseph Schroeder and a group of students, suggests why such foods are key contributors to the nation's obesity epidemic.
 
"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," Schroeder said. "It may explain why some people can't resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."
 
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For the study, Schroeder and his students fed Oreos to rats on one size of a maze, and fed rice cakes to rats on the other side. "Just like humans, rats don't seem to get much pleasure out of eating [rice cakes]," Schroeder noted.
 
Then, the researchers gave the rats the option of spending time on either side of the maze. Not surprisingly, perhaps, they found the rats spent more time on the Oreo side than where they were fed rice cakes.

The researchers also compared the results of the Oreo and rice cake test with rats given an injection of cocaine or morphine, purchased by Schroeder, who is licensed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to buy and use controlled substances for research.
 
The results showed rats formed an equally strong association between the pleasurable effects of eating Oreos as they did between cocaine or morphine. What's more, eating cookies activated more neurons in the brain's "pleasure center" than exposure to drugs of abuse.  
 
"This correlated well with our behavioral results and lends support to the hypothesis that high-fat/high-sugar foods are addictive," said Schroeder.

Curiously, the researchers also noted the rats in the study tended to eat the Oreos the way many children do — the white stuff first.
 
"They would break it open and eat the middle first," said Jamie Honohan, one of the students who designed the study.
 
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