Oreos Are as Addictive as Cocaine

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Some good news for makers of cookies and candy. Recent research shows that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine. However, the companies may want to hold off celebrating. The data are based on the habits of lab rats. Still, an entire industry has reason to hope that people will pick sugary food over dangerous drugs.

According to the study by faculty and students at Connecticut College, which has never been considered a first-rate center of research:

In a study designed to shed light on the potential addictiveness of high-fat/ high-sugar foods, Joseph Schroeder, associate professor of psychology and director of the behavioral neuroscience program, and his students found 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. They also found that eating cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than exposure to drugs of abuse.

It may be that the high-fat measure could cause an eventual threat to big fast-food chains like McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) and Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM), which are already under siege to improve the quality of their menus.

If the study is confirmed, it will be terrible for the Nabisco arm of Mondelēz International Inc. (NASDAQ: MDLZ). Oreos are the best-selling cookie in America, according to “Food Processing”:

Among the first “interactive” foods, Oreos allow, in fact encourage, consumers to be creative when eating them. From dunking them in milk, twisting them apart, eating the creme first or slowly nibbling or quickly gobbling a handful, consumers can take ownership and make eating Oreos into a very individual creative experience.

Lab rats are not likely to be able to be so creative.

It is a jump from lab rats to humans in almost all laboratory studies of how foods and drugs affect humans. The hard data on the Oreo problem for people may be years away. However, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.