Americans have been told for years binging on junk food increases health risks such as high blood pressure or high blood sugar, but a Connecticut College study suggests that certain sugary snacks, at least for lab rats, acts similar to the way cocaine does in the brain.
"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," neuroscience professor Joseph Schroedersaid in a statement. "It may explain why some people can't resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."
Schroeder, along with a team of students, constructed a maze in which lab rats could choose to spend their time on one side where they were rewarded with "America's favorite cookie," or another where they were given rice cakes as a control.
When compared with the results from a similar study in which rats were given either a shot of morphine or a shot of saline, the researchers found the rats conditioned with Oreos would spend a similar amount of time on their portion as those that flocked to the "drug" side of the maze.
Furthermore, the researchers determined that eating the cookies released significantly more neurons in the brain's pleasure center than cocaine or morphine.
The research, conceived by senior neuroscience major Jamie Honohan, looked to study the impact of the heavy marketing of junk food in low-income communities.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Presentation, women are more likely than men to be obese in lower socioeconomic classes . More men living above 350 percent of the poverty level between 2005 and 2008 were obese than those living below 130 percent.
Despite showing no trend between obesity and education level for men, women that did not complete high school were roughly twice as likely to be obese as those that graduated college.