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Ore-uh-oh! Oreo cookies may be as addictive as hard drugs, at least to lab rats, a research team found.
That sugar high you experience after noshing on sweets may be more literal than you think. Oreo cookies are just as addictive as drugs, according to new research.
In a study of lab rats, Connecticut College scientists found the classic chocolate and creme cookie activated even more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than drugs like cocaine and morphine.
The scientists devised a test in which rats encountered Oreos on one side of a maze and rice cakes on the other side, and took note of how long the animals spent on each. They compared the results to a similar maze test in which rats were given an injection of cocaine or morphine on one side and saline on the other.
Researchers then measured protein levels in the nucleus accumbens area of the brain, which “basically tells us how many cells were turned on in a specific region of the brain in response to the drugs or Oreos,” said neuroscience professor Joseph Schroeder. The Oreos activated “significantly more” neurons than the drugs.
The study supports evidence that high-fat and high-sugar foods are addictive, said researcher Jamie Honohan.
“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,” Honohan said in a statement.
While the best ways to eat an Oreo are hotly debated among humans – does one nibble the cookies first, lick out the center, or dunk it in milk and bite the whole thing? – the rats showed a clear preference.
“They would break open the middle and eat it first,” Honohan said.