Oreos as Addictive as Cocaine, in Lab Rats

Oct 17, 2013

Rats were found to prefer the middle part of an Oreo, just like many humans.
Credit BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons
Joseph Schroeder, associate professor of psychology at Connecticut College and director of the behavioral neuroscience program, and Lauren Cameron ’14 found that eating Oreos activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than exposure to drugs of abuse.
Credit Connecticut College

News has been pretty rough lately, between the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. Now comes word that America’s favorite cookie can produce similar effects on the brain as addictive drugs. New research from Connecticut College finds that the Oreo cookie is just as addictive as cocaine, at least for lab rats.

It's actually not all that surprising that eating high-fat, high-sugar foods can produce pleasurable effects. But Joseph Schroeder, director of the behavioral neuroscience program at Connecticut College, studied the brains of rats after they ate Oreo cookies. "When we did that," Schroeder said, "we found that the animals that were conditioned to Oreo cookies had a greater number of neurons that were activated, compared to animals that were exposed to cocaine or morphine." That, he said, could explain why someone who knows high-fat, high sugar foods aren’t good for them can’t resist taking the next bite.

The study was conducted with students at the college’s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy.