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Oreos May Be Addictive … Like Drugs!

October 18th, 2013

Connecticut College assistant professor of neuroscience, Joseph Schroeder (left), with student scientist, Lauren Cameron (right). Photo credit: Bob MacDonnell/Connecticut College.

Can’t get enough of Oreo cookies? That yummy creamy middle and crunchy outside. You’re not alone. It’s the world’s best selling cookie, according to the folks at Oreo.

And now we might know why.

It turns out they may be addictive — in the same way people become addicted to drugs. Yikes!

A science experiment was done on rats at Connecticut College by some undergraduate students and their professor, Joseph Schroeder.

Here’s how the experiment worked:

Rats were fed Oreos in one part of a maze and rice cakes in another part. Not hard to guess which they preferred. The rats then got to hang out on whichever side they wanted to. They liked the side where they got the Oreos better.

Then they did the experiment injecting rats with saline (salt water) in one part of the maze and an addictive drug in the other. Again, the rats got to hang out where they wanted to, and they preferred the area where they got drugs.

In both experiments the rats stayed longer where they felt pleasure: where they got Oreos and drugs.

The scientists took it one step further. They looked at the rats’ brains. The pleasure centers of their brains were lit up in similar ways from the Oreos and from drugs. Actually, the pleasure centers were lit up even more from the Oreos … (double yikes).

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

Oreo representatives pointed out that more science would need to be done, and that these results aren’t just about Oreos. They would apply to other similar high-fat, high-sugar foods too.

Also, the experiment was done in rats, but does it apply to people? It’s hard to say for sure. But, if it’s any indicator (and much to the researchers’ surprise), the rats also twisted the Oreos apart and ate the creme filling first!

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