Oreos as Addictive as Cocaine

A new study in mice sheds light on addiction

A lab mouse commonly used in labatory experiments. Connecticut College used mice to show the addictive side of junk food. (Rama/Wikimedia)
lab mouse mice rat experiment

A study conducted at Connecticut College found that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine—in lab rats. Researchers found that rats shared an equally strong affinity for environments with Oreos as they did for environements with cocaine or morphine. The student and a neuroscience professor say the study sheds light on whether junk foods can be as addictive as narcotics.  

"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," Professor Joseph Schroeder said in a release on Connecticut College News. "It may explain why some people can't resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."

Inside a maze, researcher fed Oreos to rats on one side and rice cakes on the other side. Mice that were fed rice cakes left the area quicker than those fed Oreos. A similar experiment was done involving injections of cocaine vs. saline solution. The results showed that rats conditioned with cocaine spent just as much time where they were given cocaine on the "drug" side as mice that were given Oreos, and more neurons were activated in areas of the brain that correspond to pleasure than when exposure to drugs. The study also found that, like us, rats eat the cream center of "America's favorite cookie" first.

Connecticut College
Neuroscience Professor Joseph Schroeder and Lauren Cameron ’14 found that eating Oreos activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than exposure to drugs of abuse. (Courtesy of Bob MacDonnell)

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