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Researchers Say Oreos Are as Addictive as Cocaine

2 comments

Obesity Epidemic Tied to Oreos?

You can’t go a day without hearing about the obesity epidemic and the fact that Americans tend to struggle with their weight because of a plethora of high-calorie, high-fat food.  But what if individuals aren’t necessarily completely to blame for their penchant for eating junk foods?  What if the foods we eat trigger us to eat in particular ways?  It’s true, say some scientists studying lab rats and their response to Oreo cookies.

Rats Can’t Get Enough of the Creamy Center

Joseph Schroeder, a professor of neuroscience at Connecticut College conducted a study with lab rats and Oreos and found that the pleasure centers of the rats’ brains lit up when consuming the sugary treats.  In fact, the neurons in the pleasure center were activated even more than they were by cocaine.  The rats were placed in a maze with rice cakes at one end and Oreos in a separate area and were given a choice of where they would like to hang out.  Naturally, the rats chose the Oreos over the rice cakes, just like most humans.  Then, in a second part of the experiment, the researchers put the rats in another maze and injected them with either saline solution at one end or injections of cocaine or morphine at a different end.  The rats also chose the cocaine or morphine injections more than the saline injections.  The results also showed that the rats chose the Oreos as frequently as they chose the cocaine or morphine injections, demonstrating the power of high-fat/high-sugar foods.

Implications for Obesity Epidemic

Dr. Schroeder says that the results of his experiment suggest that high-fat/high-sugar foods have as much addictive power in the brain as drugs and that perhaps overeating should be treated as an addiction.  He says he hasn’t touched an Oreo since completing the experiment and doesn’t intend to any time soon.

2 Comments

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  1. Michael Phelan says:
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    Did the rats get to try them dipped in milk?

  2. up arrow

    First of all, this is not a peer-reviewed, published study. The researchers looked at something called “conditioned place preference”. This is not the same thing as addiction, which is characterized by specific cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes.

    Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes food can be addictive. But this study did NOT directly compare Oreos to drugs. It compared Oreos to rice crackers, and drug injections to a saline control. The team never compared Oreos plus saline control to drugs plus rice crackers!

    So, any conclusion about their relative addictive potential is invalid. The outcome would not change replacing Oreos with chocolate chip cookies, or cheese.