Posted by Stephen Adkins on Oct 16, 2013 09:22 AM EDT
Researchers have found the reason behind why we end up finishing all the Oreo biscuits once the wrapper is opened. Apparently, the delicious cookies are as addictive as cocaine, according to a study conducted by Connecticut College students and Joseph Schroeder, a professor of neuroscience.
The team discovered that eating the cookies led to increased neuron activity in the brain’s ‘pleasure center’ just like the ones observed during drug exposure.
The students who conducted tests on lab rats also found that, just like humans, the rats preferred to eat the middle creamy layer before the biscuit too.
The current study was conducted to analyse the possible addiction to high-fat/ high-sugar food.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” Schroeder said in an official statement. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”
In the study, the students fed hungry rats on one side of a maze with Oreos and on the other side with rice cakes.
Talking about rice cakes, Schroeder said, “Just like humans, rats don’t seem to get much pleasure out of eating them.”
They then allowed the rats to spend time on either sides of the maze. They measured the time the rodents spent on the Oreo side and found that they spent a considerable amount of time on the side.
They compared the results of this test with a former study where rats were administered an injection of cocaine or morphine (addictive substances), on one side of the maze and given a dose of saline on the other.
The team found rats that developed a liking for Oreos spent more time on the drug side of the maze similar to rats who received drug injections.
To study the degree of addiction of both drugs and Oreos, they used immunohistochemistry to measure neural activity in the rat’s brains after consumption.
“It basically tells us how many cells were turned on in a specific region of the brain in response to the drugs or Oreos,” said Schroeder.
They found that the Oreos lit up more activity in nucleus accumbens, the brain’s “pleasure center than cocaine or morphine.
“This correlated well with our behavioral results and lends support to the hypothesis that high-fat/ high-sugar foods are addictive,” said Schroeder.
This finding can help medical experts develop better treatment plans to fight obesity in humans.
“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,” said Major Jamie Honohan ’13 in the statement.
“Maybe we can approach obesity the same way we address people addicted to drugs, because neurologically, it’s the same,” Honohan told Examiner. “Oreos and other high-fat, high-sugar foods have this potential to be just as addicting as drugs of abuse.”