Oreos Addictive? Not So Fast, Say Researchers

Lacy LangleyLife

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Are Oreos as addictive as cocaine? That seems to be on many headlines lately, after a Connecticut College press release on a student research project broke the hearts of North America, but is it true? I'm not reserving my spot in rehab just yet, and here's why. The research on that project is not absolutely certain, according to LiveScience.com.

The experiment ran as follows:

Student researchers put rats in a maze with two sides. On one side, the rats were rewarded for traversing the maze with delicious, sugary Oreos. On the other side, they got bland and boring rice cakes. The students then measured how long the rats spent on either side of the maze. I think we can all guess how that turned out. Oreos beat rice cakes everytime.

The students then conducted the same experiment, except this time the reward at the end of one side of the maze was a shot of morphine or cocaine. On the other side, it was a shot of saline. The time that the rats spent on the side with cocaine in the second experiment was equivalent to the time spent on the Oreo side in the first experiment. However, that information doesn't warrant calling Oreos addictive.

"The study performed cannot determine whether Oreos are as addictive as cocaine," said Edythe London, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, who uses brain imaging to study the neural basis of drug cravings. "That question is best addressed in a comparison of how hard a rat will work for Oreos versus cocaine — how many times a rat will press a lever to get one or the other."

The question of whether foods can be addictive remains unanswered. The desire to binge on scrumptious sugary or fatty foods reportedly shares some similarities in the brain as the need for drugs. Rats fed junk food and then given a normal, healthy diet show brain changes similar to those seen in drug addicts trying to kick a habit, according to a 2012 study, for example.

Scary. But, researchers suggest that other factors like government subsidies that make junk food cheap are just as much to blame as any perceived food addiction. More research will be needed to be conclusive on the subject.

"We are biologically wired to respond to certain tastes, textures and colors, but that doesn't mean it's an addiction," Gabriel Harris, an assistant professor of food science at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. I'm going to take that and run with it.

image via wikipedia

Lacy Langley
Lacy is a writer from Texas. She likes spending time in the home office, homeschooling her kids, playing the didgeridoo, caring for her chickens (Thelma and Louise), Rolos, Christmas, and Labyrinth.