It should come as no surprise to anyone that Oreo cookies were found to be as addictive as cocaine in a recent study. Our bodies are wired to like sugary, fatty foods, but it’s not a habit that can’t be kicked, according to New York City Dr. Timothy Morley, whose work includes helping women use nutrition to regulate hormone health.
“The first step in curing a sugar or fat addiction is, like with any addiction, realize you have it,” said Morley. “This is difficult because we don’t generally think of food as being biologically addictive like a drug, but it can be.”
A research team at Connecticut College in New London conducted an experiment on rats using a maze with rice cakes on one side and Oreos on the other. The rats were observed on both sides of the maze.
“Just like humans, rats don’t seem to get much pleasure out of eating rice cakes,” Joseph Schroeder, who led the research team, told UPI.com.
The experiment results were compared with previous tests done on rats that were given shots of morphine or cocaine on one side of a maze and shots of saline on the other. The Oreo study showed that the rats eating the Oreos spent as much time on that side of the maze as those given the drugs.
The researchers also studied the pleasure center of the rats’ brains and found that the Oreos activated more neurons than cocaine or morphine.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” Schroeder told the Connecticut College News. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”
Morley believes that learning other ways to activate the pleasure centers is key in overcoming addiction to foods. He also recommends controlling the amount you eat and practicing portion control, educating yourself regarding good vs. bad foods and eliminating soda, high fructose corn syrup and sweeteners that can cause people to binge eat more often.
And according to the study, rats, just like many humans, like to eat the creamy filling first. So the next time you get a mad craving to eat an entire bag of Oreos in one sitting, just blame it on your brain chemistry.
[Update, 3:05 p.m., Oct. 16: This post has been updated to include comments from Dr. Timothy Morley, D.O.]
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