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editorial

Oreos: Lab rats get hooked

The Boston Globe

Can’t put down the box of Oreos? Turns out that the white creamy filling is like crack, neurologically speaking.

A new Connecticut College study shows that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine, at least for lab rats. Researchers put the rats into a maze where they were given the choice of rice cakes or Oreos. Not surprisingly, the cookies won out handily. What’s striking is that, compared with similar studies in which the rats could get a shot of cocaine or morphine, the Oreos activated more neurons in the pleasure centers of the rat brain, the nucleus accumbens, than either drug. And the rats, like most humans, went for the creamy filling first.

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The findings go a long way in explaining why it’s so hard to eat just one cookie, rather than a full sleeve, suggesting Oreos’ combination of sugar and fat may be even more irresistible to one’s brain than drugs. It also lends support to the notion that poor eating habits that can lead to obesity may be as hard to kick as drug addiction, and must be treated similarly.

Not addictive? Rice cakes. As neuroscience assistant professor Joseph Schroeder put it, “Just like humans, rats don’t seem to get much pleasure out of eating them.” Alas.

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