Are Oreo cookies as addictive as cocaine? According to neuroscientists at Connecticut College, the answer is “yes” – at least, if you assume “any stimulation of the brain’s pleasure centers” equates to “addiction.”
Today.com reports that neuroscience professor Joseph Schroeder and his students reached their conclusions after testing lab rats in mazes. In one test, rats who successfully navigated a maze could choose between eating Oreos or rice cakes. In another test, rats were given a choice between getting injected with saline solution, or injected with cocaine or morphine.
Rats in the first group consistently chose to eat Oreos over rice cakes, while rats in the second group consistently chose to be injected with cocaine rather than salt water. Turns out that Oreos and cocaine stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers, whereas rice cakes and salt water do not.
“These findings suggest that high fat/sugar foods and drugs of abuse trigger brain addictive processes to the same degree and lend support to the hypothesis that maladaptive eating behaviors contributing to obesity can be compared to drug addiction,” Schroder’s team wrote in their introduction to the study, which is to be presented to the Society of Neuroscience next month.
We are not neuroscientists, and we did not read the actual study, only Today.com’s brief summary. So we’re going to assume—or hope—that the actual study is far more nuanced than Today’s synopsis, because the suggestion “any stimulation of the brain’s pleasure center equals addiction” strikes us as a terrifying case of false equivalence.