The study by students at Connecticut College found that when the rats ate Oreos they formed an equally strong association with the cookies as when other rats were injected with cocaine or morphine.
Additionally, researchers found eating the cookies activated even more neurons in the rats’ brain “pleasure centers” than the addictive drugs.
The students hope to springboard off this research to help discover why people have difficulty resisting foods that they know are harmful.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” Neuroscience Professor Joseph Schroeder said in a school press release. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”
“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,” [researcher] Jamie Honohun said.
The researchers were unable to determine if the cookie or the cream were more responsible for the stimulative effects of Oreos, they did learn something fascinating.
On a lighter note, Honohun says they also got a surprise when watching the rats eat the Oreos.
“They would break it open and eat the middle first,” she said.