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Oreos as Addictive as Cocaine: A Study

Oct 17, 2013 10:09 AM EDT

Oreos are as addictive as cocaine, a study of rats suggests.

In order to test the cookie's addictiveness, researchers from Connecticut College gave hungry rats in a maze either Oreos or rice cakes, depending on which side of the labyrinth they were on. The rats then had the option of spending time on either side of the maze.

The scientists compared the results to those from rats that received an injection of cocaine or morphine on one side of a maze and saline on the other.

In the end, the cookie-fed rats spent as much time on the Oreo side of the maze as the rats hoping for a shot of cocaine or morphine spent on their corresponding side of the maze.

Furthermore, by measuring the expression of a protein called c-Fos, which marks neuronal activation, in the nucleus accumbens -- the brain's "pleasure center," the researchers found that Oreos activated significantly more neurons than cocaine or morphine.

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

Based on the results, co-author Jamie Hanohan argues that products like Oreos may pose a greater threat to the general public than the addictive drugs.

"Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat/ high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability," she said.

And while not necessarily scientifically relevant, the researchers pointed out that rats preferred to consume Oreos much like many humans.

"They would break it open and eat the middle first," she said.

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