Photo by Suat Eman
When we exited part one of this article, a group of innocuous lab-rats had been spotted navigating passage through a standardized maze in pursuit of the pleasures that can only be gotten from cocaine, morphine, and Oreo cookies. As it turns out, undergraduate students at Connecticut College have discovered that rats garner an equal degree of pleasure from an environment associated with cocaine and morphine as they do with an environment associated with Oreo cookies. The researchers also found that cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s pleasure center than do drugs of abuse.
The culprit behind this rat madness is not specifically Oreo cookies but that which is in Oreo cookies. The research done at Connecticut College supports the theory that high fat/high sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do.
How It Works and What About It
When our Oreo munching rats were given their special favor, a protein called c-Fos presented strongly in the area of the brain that is known to be active in addiction and pleasure. The fact that more neurons were activated by Oreos than by cocaine or morphine suggests that our brains favor sugar and fat even more than drugs.
The result is that people will return again and again to food that is bad for them. So, what about it then?
Well, how about public health issues? Not only are high calories foods quite addictive but they are often low priced as well. Such a combination may actually make certain foods more a public risk than drugs due to easy accessibility and minimal pricing.
In addition, foods that contain high amounts of fat and sugar are marketed in excess in communities with lower socioeconomic status.
What It All Means
While the Connecticut College study is thought-provoking, I don’t think it was meant to be conclusive. Therefore, I would not expect a deluge of newspaper articles about rats holding up gas stations at gunpoint to gain dollars to support an Oreo cookie habit that has gotten out of hand.
The article states that the results of the Connecticut College experiment support previous claims about the addictive nature of certain foods that contribute to obesity and other health issues. Foods that are high in fat and sugar are of special interest.
Other experiments conducted in other arenas have tested the effects of excessive consumption of chocolate pellets on lab rats. Changes were measured in brain activity as well as behavioral conduct. The rats that had been gorged with chocolate exhibited similar effects to those rats that were given cocaine including changes in the brain as well as behaviors similar to craving and withdrawal.
What much of this comes down to is finger pointing at Big Food and the contention that the industry is intentionally marketing high sugar/high fat addictive products to keep us coming back for more. The third part of this article explores that subject.Living life well-fed,My Bariatric Life
Published On: October 30, 2013