Oreos’ Addictive Potential vs. Drugs

    October 16, 2013
    Nicole Barnes
    Comments are off for this post.


What’s all the Oreo hullabaloo? They may be addictive? Well, if you’ve ever tasted an Oreo, you already know that its addictive quality is not news. But what happened exactly, and how was this expected revelation rendered? A very thoughtful neuroscientist by the name of Joseph Schroeder decided to conduct an experiment with America’s favorite cookie and– of course–lab rats. Schroeder conducted the Oreo experiment along with four students.

The goal of the experiment was to find associations between addictive substances and their environments. The rats were put in a maze where they were given Heaven-sent Oreo cookies in one area of the maze, and then those boring, cooking accidents known as rice cakes in another area of the maze. The rats were then given the option of spending time in either side of the maze. They were allowed to choose whether to reside in the area where they were living the good life and munching on Oreos, or they were allowed to choose to spend time in the rice cake ghetto of hard times and harsh memories.

Naturally, like humans or any other living organism with a fully functioning mouth, the rats chose to inhabit the Oreo side over the dry, desolate rice patty side. But of course! Nothing significant about that.

What was significant was that the information gathered in the Oreo experiment was compared to a similar experiment using cocaine and morphine on one side of a maze, and a saline injection on the other side of the maze. In this experiment, the rats also chose to remain in Happy Land on the drug side of the maze. But the research went even further as to examine the rats’ brain activity in both experiments, and THAT was pretty amazing.

They found that the pleasure centers of the rats’ brains were more active when they were given Oreos than when they were given morphine or cocaine, thus supporting that sugary foods have a strong potential to be addictive. So we may finally have a valid excuse for our Oreo binges. But don’t expect to see any Oreo rehabilitation clinics popping up any time soon.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • locotaco

    did you see the news resturday tthey said oreos can have drugs in them

  • http://thephysicspolice.blogspot.com/2013/10/rats-oreos-and-drugs.html PhysicsPolice

    First of all, this is not a peer-reviewed, published study. The researchers looked at something called “conditioned place preference”. This is not the same thing as addiction, which is characterized by specific cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes.

    Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes food can be addictive. But this study did NOT directly compare Oreos to drugs. It compared Oreos to rice crackers, and drug injections to a saline control. The team never compared Oreos plus saline control to drugs plus rice crackers!

    So, any conclusion about their relative addictive potential is invalid. The outcome would not change replacing Oreos with chocolate chip cookies, or cheese.

    This is dishonest reporting, and should be retracted.