In a new study from Connecticut College, a professor of neuroscience and a student team found that Oreo cookies were just as addictive as cocaine for lab rats.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” said Professor Joseph Schroeder, the leader of the study. “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 lab rats were placed in a maze and given the choice between rice cakes and Oreos – and they invariably chose the side of the maze with the Oreos. A parallel study showed the same frequency of results when rats were offered a choice between cocaine and saline shots.
The team found that the pleasure centers in rats’ brains formed an “equally strong association” between the Oreos and the cocaine. However, the Oreos activated even more neurons in the pleasure centers than the cocaine did.
This isn’t surprising, because many other studies have shown sugar to be a highly addictive substance. Like drugs, sugar causes numerous health issues...ranging from diabetes to obesity to cancer. And worse, it’s in almost every processed food that we eat. It’s easy to avoid cocaine, but tough to avoid sugar.
Jamie Honohan, a neuroscience major who participated in the Connecticut College study, concluded: “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.”