Oreos may be as addictive as cocaine and heroin


From The Week:

America’s favorite cookie may have just led to a major breakthrough in our understanding of food addiction. A study showing that Oreos may actually be more addictive than cocaine or heroin suggests our inability to resist the cookie, and perhaps other junk food, is more than a matter of weak self-control.

Researchers at Connecticut College studied how rats’ brain behavior changed when exposed to Oreos versus rice cakes, a bland control if there ever was one. Rats were placed in a maze with Oreos on one end and rice cakes on the other; unsurprisingly, when rats had the option to go to either side of the maze, they went where the Oreo once was.

While the results are seemingly obvious, the researchers compared them to similar maze set-ups involving injections of illicit drugs versus saline. They concluded that “rats conditioned with Oreos spent as much time on the ‘drug’ side of the maze as the rats conditioned with cocaine or morphine.”

Even more telling, researchers measured neural activation in the nucleus accumbens, the “pleasure center” of the brain. Eating Oreos activated “significantly more neurons” than cocaine or morphine.

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