Researchers at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut compared the effects of illegal drugs to the effects of...Oreos. They had rats run through a maze and, at the end, either gave them an Oreo or a boring rice cake (a rice cake being universally accepted as a "boring" food). Fun fact: Rats break open Oreos and eat the "cream" first, too! But, we digress.
The researchers also had another group of rats complete the maze. This group was either rewarded with a shot of cocaine, a shot of morphine, or a shot of saline (placebo). Then, all the rats were judged by two factors. One, how often did they return to the spot where they had gotten their drug or cookie fix? Two, how much activity was happening in the pleasure center of the brain?
It turns out that rats who had gotten drugged-up and those who had eaten cookies were both about as likely to hang out where they had gotten their fix. And, the rats who had been enjoying Oreos actually had a HIGHER concentration of proteins associated with pleasure. So, in a way, Oreos were actually more addictive than morphine or cocaine. Scary stuff.
While we're left scratching our heads, co-author Jamie Honohan explained it like this: "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." Food for thought the next time you're in the cookie aisle. (CBS News)