Can Oreos Act Like Drugs?

oreoIn Connecticut College, Professor Joseph Schroeder and his students studied the effects of having Oreos versus known addictive drugs such as cocaine or morphine using mice. They studied the stimulation that each had on the neurons in the brain. For this experiment, they had a control, something bland like rice cakes, another was Oreos, and last being the addictive drug. They found that the Oreos actually activated more neurons in the brain’s pleasure receptors than these addictive drugs did. They used an immunohistochemistry to measure the expression of a protein called c-Fos, which showed activity in the mice’s brain pleasure centers.

The findings supported their thoughts. They found that Oreos activated a lot more neurons than cocaine or morphine. This also correlates with obesity rates. People know that certain foods are bad for them, yet they continue to eat them and even in larger amounts than recommended. This can pose as a problem since these high fat/sugar foods are accessible and people view them as harmless compared to addictive drugs. Oreos stimulate our brain and other foods high in fat/sugar do the same thing. This is why we continue to eat that second cookie or order ice cream even though we are full. The pleasure receptors in our brain keep us coming back for more, similar to the behaviors of these mice.

It is difficult to over come this and being interested in nutrition, myself, this topic intrigued me. Are people getting tricked into coming back to certain foods that stimulate the pleasure receptors in their brains? I’m sure food manufacturers or restaurants have this down to a science on what foods and tastes stimulate a person’s happiness. A question that arises from this is if obesity is caused by these drug-like foods? Are the foods that we are eating addictive and are they purposely addictive to keep us buying more and more?

-Amanda Ng



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