Students and a professor of neuroscience at Connecticut College said they have found evidence that shows Oreo cookies are just as addictive as cocaine - at least in lab rats.
The study was designed to show that there is the potential for addictiveness of both high-fat and high-sugar foods, and Professor Joseph Schroeder and his students found rats had an association between the pleasure of eating Oreos and a specific environment was the same as cocaine or morphine and a specific environment.
According to their research, eating cookies also activated more neurons in the brain's "pleasure center" than exposure to drugs.
"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."
Conn College officials said the research was started by neuroscience major Jamie Honohan, who was interested in how the prevalence of high-fat and high-sugar foods in lower-income neighborhoods contributes to the obesity epidemic.
"My research interests stemmed from a curiosity for studying human behavior and our motivations when it comes to food," Honohan said in a statement. "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."
The students spent the better part of a year trying to figure out the association between drug and environment.
They created a maze, and on one side they would give hungry rats Oreos, and the other side would be a control. In this case, official said, rice cakes were provided for the hungry rats. They would then give the rats the option of spending as much time as they wanted on either side of the maze, and would record how long they spent on the side where they were fed Oreos.
The group then compared the Oreo results with the results from a test in which a group of rats would be given an injection of cocaine or morphine, and the other saline.
The research showed that the rats conditioned with Oreos spent just as much time on that side as the rats injected with cocaine or morphine.
More in-depth research of the project will be presented next month at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego.
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