A new video by Studio N news channel is making rounds on WhatsApp stirring controversy over Oreo biscuits which are popular among kids and child characters who often vouch for its cream and crunchy sides eating it after dumping in milk. Priced at Rs.10 per 5 pieces, they are among the entry level available cookies in the market and an easy choice for the middle class.
Based on a 2013 research by Connecticut College students who found “America’s 9now India’s) favorite cookie” by Cadbury is just as addictive as cocaine based on their lab test on rats. Just like most humans, rats too went for the middle cream first, it observed.
Joseph Schroeder, associate professor of psychology and director of the behavioral neuroscience program, and his students found rats vied for Oreos and compared it to similar addiction to cocaine or morphine. The cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than exposure to drugs of abuse, they said.
However, the results of further scientific review was suppressed until today when a news video started going viral in India about the alleged cocaine-type elements in it. It remains to be seen whether researchers would continue their study to explore the truth.
“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” Schroeder said. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”
Jamie Honohan, scholar in the College’s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, said it was surprising to watch the rats eat the famous cookie.
In their study, they gave on one side of a maze, Oreos and on the other, rice cakes. When given the option to rats of spending time on either side of the maze and measure how long they would spend on the side where they were typically fed Oreos.“They would break it open and eat the middle first,” Hanohan said.
They compared the results of the Oreo and rice cake test with results from rats that were given an injection of cocaine or morphine, known addictive substances, on one side of the maze and a shot of saline on the other.
The research showed the rats conditioned with Oreos spent as much time on the “drug” side of the maze as the rats conditioned with cocaine or morphine.
“It basically tells us how many cells were turned on in a specific region of the brain in response to the drugs or Oreos,” said Schroeder. They found that the Oreos activated significantly 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 can be thought of as addictive,” said Schroeder. And that could be a problem for the general public, says Honohan.
“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,” she said.
Schroeder had presented the research at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego, California in 2013.