It may feel shameful to reach for that tenth cookie, but new research has shown that Oreos can be just as habit-forming as drugs like cocaine. Professor Joseph Schroeder of Connecticut College led the study, testing for the impact of snacks in low-income neighborhoods, and explained his alarming discovery.
Metro: In what sense are the cookies more addictive?
Schroeder: We used a simple protocol to measure reward and test their preferences. The rats were given both stimuli and in extended studies their pleasure centers had greater activation from Oreos. They also indicated preference by choosing the environment containing the Oreos. Each pair had four tests and after that they were conditioned.
Were the rats high?
No it was the type of activation that happens all the time from engaging in a pleasurable act, the pleasure that’s important for learning behaviors that promote survival like eating and sex. But drug abuse hijacks that area so it’s a different type of activation.
Do you imagine other sugary snack are also powerfully addictive?
Perhaps – anything that palatable that includes sugar and fat can activate our brains that way. It would need to be treated the same as any other type of drug addiction.