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Rat Study Finds Oreo Cookies Can be as Addictive as Drugs

Update Date: Oct 16, 2013 03:02 PM EDT

Advertised as one of America's favorite cookies, Oreos are a staple in many homes across the United States. In a new college study, researchers decided to examine these cream filled cookies' effect on the brain. The research team from Connecticut College used mouse models and found that Oreo cookies were as addictive as drugs.

"My research interests stemmed from a curiously for studying human behavior and our motivations when it comes to food," explained researcher and neuroscience major, Jamie Honoham. Honoham is also a scholar in the College's Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy. "We chose Oreos not only because they are America's favorite cookie, and highly palatable to rats, but also because products containing high amounts of fat and sugar are heavily marketed in communities with lower socioeconomic statuses."

For this study, the research team used rat models to observe the addictiveness of Oreos. Hungry rats were put into a maze that had two sides. On one side, the rats were given Oreos while on the other side, rats were given rice cakes and acted as the control group. The rats were then able to move around throughout the entire maze as the researchers recorded the length of time rats chose to stay on either side. The researchers then recreated the maze with one side labeled the cocaine side while the other was the saline side, also understood as the control group. The team recorded the time rats spent on either side of the maze.

The team found that the rats that started off in the addictive side of the maze that were either given Oreos or cocaine injections were more likely to stay on that side. The researchers also found that the brains of the rats that ate Oreos created a very similar association to the food product that was also observed in the brains of the drugged rats. The researchers then used immunohistochemistry to observe the expression of protein c-Fos, which is a marker for neuronal activation in the brain's "pleasure center," also known as the nucleus accumbens. They found that Oreos actually activated more neurons than the drugs did.

"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," Professor of neuroscience, Joseph Schroeder said according to the College's news release. "It may explain why some people can't resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."

Schroeder will present this research study at Society for Neuroscience conference next month located in San Diego, CA.

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