A small new study led by Connecticut College professor Joseph Schroeder suggests the brain responds to Oreo cookies quite like it responds to actual drugs- if you are a rat, that is.
The “pleasure center” of the brain, the nucleus accumbency, apparently gets just as stimulated in response to Oreos as it does to cocaine and morphine. While the study was done in rats, the authors say it has relevance to humans as well, and could explain why people have such a hard time resisting eating an entire box of the cookies.
The study also made another discovery: Rats, like humans, like to eat oreo’s creamy centre first. To test how the animals responded to oreos vs. drugs, the team trained rats to navigate a maze. On one side, Oreo cookies were provided, and on the other side plain rice cakes were offered. The team also compared these results to rat that were treated with morphine or cocaine rather than oreos.
They found that regardless of what “substance” the rats were offered (Oreos, cocaine, or morphine) they spent about the same amount of time on the “drug” side of the maze. “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.”
The research may therefore bear some relevance to human public health issues – namely the fact that high – calorie foods are often low – priced and highly addictive.