Oreo, one of the most popular cream biscuits across the globe, can affect the brain the same way as some illegal drugs, new research reveals.
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Professor Joseph Schroeder and his colleagues from the Connecticut College in New London conducted experiments on rats and found that the cookies stimulated neurons in the brain's pleasure center as cocaine. He added that all foods containing high levels of fat or sugar have the same effect on the brain.
"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," Neuroscientist Schroeder said in a news release. "It may explain why some people can't resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."
For their experiment, the researchers fed hungry rats Oreos and rice cakes in two sides of the maze. They allowed the animals to roam around the maze and stay in either side of the maze. Researchers recorded the time the animals spent on each side. Later, they repeated the same experiment on another group of rats, injected with drugs like cocaine, morphine and fed them saline.
The rats injected with cocaine and those which received Oreos spent equal time on the drug side of the maze. Surprisingly, while measuring the expression of a protein called c-Fos in the pleasure centre in the brain, the researchers found that Oreos triggered more neurons than cocaine or morphine. "This correlated well with our behavioral results and lends support to the hypothesis that high-fat/ high-sugar foods are addictive," said Schroeder.
"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," researcher Jamie Honohan added.
The findings will be presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego, California, next month.
The real health aspect of cookies has been a question often left unanswered. In June, a team of researchers from the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) at Queen Mary and University of London tested 479 biscuits available in UK markets and found that a majority of the biscuits contained alarming levels of salt, and can place the younger generation at greater risk of high blood pressure later.
According to medimanage.com, cookies contain unhealthy ingredients like wheat flour, hydrogenated oils that contain Trans-fat and high levels of sugar, making it a high-calorie snack, without having any fiber or nutritious value.