If you can't stop eating Oreos and find yourself craving them unbearably, you may be addicted, as a research team at Connecticut College recently tested the cookies on lab rats and found that they enjoy them just as much as we do, creamy center and all, TODAY reports.
"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," neuroscience assistant professor Joseph Schroeder told TODAY. "That may be one reason people have trouble staying away from them and it may be contributing to the obesity epidemic."
Schroeder's neuroscience students put hungry rats in a maze with two separate routes, rice cakes on one end and Oreos on another. Afterwards, the rats were given the option of going to either treat after fully exploring the entire maze, and the rats had a strong preference for the cookies.
"Just like humans, rats don't seem to get much pleasure out of eating [the rice cakes]," Schroeder said.
And like most humans, the rats ate the creamy center of the chocolate cookies first.
The results of were then compared to another experiment in which half of rats were given saline injections at the end of a maze while the other half were injected with cocaine or morphine. The rats got about as much enjoyment from the Oreos as they did the drugs, spending about the same amount of time at both the drug and Oreo stations in both experiments. The researchers concluded that the cookies activate neurons in the "pleasure center" of the brain even more than stimulants like cocaine do.
"These findings suggest that high fat/sugar foods and drugs of abuse trigger brain addictive processes to the same degree and lend support to the hypothesis that maladaptive eating behaviors contributing to obesity can be compared to drug addiction," Schroeder's team writes. They will present their findings next month at the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, Calif.
Schroeder told TODAY that since the experiment, he hasn't touched a single Oreo cookie.
"It really just speaks to the effects that high fat and high sugar foods and foods in general, can have on your body. The way they react in your brain, that was really surprising for me," Lauren Cameron, a student at Connecticut College who worked on the study, told TODAY.