Ever think you were going to have just one Oreo and, before you knew it, found you had wolfed down half the package?
Rats, apparently, have the same issue.
Researchers at Connecticut College have found that “America’s Favorite Cookie” is, in fact, as addictive as cocaine — in rats.
According to research by Connecticut College neuroscientist Joseph Schroeder and his students, 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.
When they looked in the brains of the rats, they also found that eating Oreos activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than when consuming the happy drugs.
“It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them,” Schroeder said in a press release.
Why even explore whether rats get hooked on Oreos, you may wonder. Schroeder and his team wanted to get at possible root causes of obesity among lower income neighborhoods. Since acquiring Oreos is significantly easier — and cheaper — than buying recreational drugs, the cookies could be offering a cheap, unhealthy buzz.
It turns out rats also resemble many humans in how they relish their Oreos, explained Jamie Honohan, a neuroscience major at the college who thought up the original idea of the study.
“They would break it open and eat the middle first,” she said.