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Study: Cookies as Addictive as Cocaine

A new study says Oreo cookies can be as addictive as drugs to lab rats. (photo credit: Evan-Amos/Vanamo Media)
A new study says Oreo cookies can be as addictive as drugs to lab rats. (photo credit: Evan-Amos/Vanamo Media)

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Can a cookie be as addictive as cocaine?

Researchers say that for lab rats at least, the answer is yes. Rodents in a study at Connecticut College became hooked on Oreos, the most popular cookie in the United States during a study aimed at shedding light on the potential addictiveness of high-fat and high-sugar foods.

According to the scientists, lab rats formed an equally strong association between the pleasurable effects of eating Oreos and a specific environment as they did between cocaine or morphine and a specific environment. They also found that eating cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than exposure to drugs of abuse.

Researchers also noted that like humans, rats like to eat the creamy center of Oreos first.

“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” said Professor Joseph Schroeder. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”

Oreos have been available in the U.S. since 1912 and consist of two chocolate cookie discs with a sweet cream filling. They are now available in many flavors.

To test the cookie’s addictiveness, researchers placed rats in a maze. On one side of the maze, they would give hungry rats Oreos, and on the other side, rice cakes. They would then give the rats the option of spending time on either side of the maze.

Those results were compared to rats who were placed in a maze that offered an injection of cocaine or morphine versus an injection of saline solution.

The research showed the rats conditioned with Oreos spent as much time on the Oreo side of the maze as the rats conditioned with cocaine or morphine.

Researchers also monitored activity in the brain’s pleasure center.

“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 are addictive,” said Schroeder.

The research will be presented next month at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego, California.

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Comment Sorting
by: PhysicsPolice
October 18, 2013 6:32 PM
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.

This is dishonest reporting, and should be retracted.

by: Markt
October 16, 2013 8:04 PM
wonder how many millions were spent on these they could have saved, simply by asking me....

by: cat from: oregon
October 16, 2013 1:51 PM
they should try this with krispy kreme donuts. personal observation indicates they are more addictive than heroin.

by: Arti from: Washington
October 15, 2013 10:08 PM
I wonder if there is any specific ingredient in Oreo which other high cookies don't have. It will be interesting to see this study done with some other brands containing different levels of sugar.

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