Addicted to cocaine and other hard drugs? Obsessed with eating Oreos? Powerless to avoid sugary food in general? Scientists at Connecticut College found that eating sugary foods might activate more activity in the brain's pleasure center than drugs like morphine and cocaine.
The results were found in a study on rats, where each hungry rat was put into a maze with only two paths to go down. On one side of the maze were rice cakes, and on the other were Oreo cookies. The rats were given the choice to hang out on the side of the maze they preferred. After eating both, most filtered to the side with the Oreos (duh).
These findings were compared to a sister test, where rats were given the same maze, only this time the option on one side was an injection of saline solution, and on the other side they got either cocaine or morphine injections. These rats greatly preferred to hang out on the side with the drugs (again, duh).
Here's where it gets interesting. Rats allowed to wander freely spent about as much time on the side with the Oreos as they did on the side with the drugs.
Dr. Schroeder and his team of researchers have uncovered significant implications for the fight against obesity, now an epidemic in North America. According to the doctor:
Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do. That may be one reason people have trouble staying away from them and it may be contributing to the obesity epidemic.
Rat brains do not equal human brains, and Oreos are not the same as hard drugs, but this study’s findings could go a long way to finding more effective methods to combat obesity and drug addiction in the future.
The findings will be presented in November at the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.