If you’ve ever consumed an entire row of Oreos – daresay the whole package – only to wonder why and how, researchers from Connecticut College believe they’ve arrived at an explanation.
Your brain might like the sandwich cookies even more than cocaine.
The study subjected lab rats to two comparative tests: saline solution versus cocaine or morphine via injection, and rice cakes versus Oreos. The animals were placed in a maze and allowed to stay wherever they wanted.
Unsurprisingly, the rats didn’t hang around the rice cakes for long.
But when they reached the Oreos – and tasted the “wonderfilled” cream filling – they were happy to stay put, just like when they received the drug injections. By measuring the expression of a protein in the rodents, the students also found that the cookies activated more neurons in the accumbens (the brain’s “pleasure centre”) than addictive substances like cocaine.
“This correlated well with our behavioral results and lends support to the hypothesis that high-fat/ high-sugar foods are addictive,” explained professor Joseph Schroeder, who oversaw the research.
Presumably, the study was conducted on rats because the neuroscience team could not administer drugs to adults.
The study was conceived by neuroscience major Jamie Honohan, who follows human behaviour around food. “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,” she said in a press release.
Schroeder told Today.com that the findings have left him wary. “I haven’t touched an Oreo since doing this experiment,” he said.
But Oreo aficionados need not worry – at least in the immediate future – that their favourite snack might become contraband. On the contrary. Perhaps cocaine users should consider swapping their costly and hazardous habit for a package of cookies.