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Connecticut College Study Finds Oreos As Addictive As Cocaine

Professor Joseph Schroeder and student Lauren Cameron helped with a study that proved Oreo cookies can be as addictive as cocaine in lab rats.
Professor Joseph Schroeder and student Lauren Cameron helped with a study that proved Oreo cookies can be as addictive as cocaine in lab rats. Photo Credit: Courtesy Connecticut College

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- A study by Connecticut College in New London may have discovered why Oreos really are "America's Favorite Cookie."

In a study designed to shed light on the potential addictiveness of high-fat/high-sugar foods, Professor Joseph Schroeder and his students found rats formed an equally strong association between the pleasurable effects of eating Oreos and a specific environment as they did between cocaine or morphine and a specific environment. They also found that eating cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than exposure to drugs of abuse.

To test the addictiveness of Oreos, neuroscience major Jamie Honohan and co-researcher Becca Markson worked with Schroeder and two other students, science leader Gabriela Lopez and Katrina Bantis, last year to measure the association between “drug” and environment.

The students then placed the rats in a maze with rice cakes on one end and Oreos on the other. Like most humans, the hungry rats chose to spend more time with the cream-filled cookie than the rice cakes. In more amazing was that the rats had a tendency to crack the cookie open and eat the filling first, according to Honohan.

What the study revealed is that the Oreos activated more neurons in the "pleasure center" of the rats' brains than cocaine or morphine, and that, according to Honohan, could present a serious problem.

“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,” Honohan said in a statement.

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