Suddenly the phrase “junk food junkie” has taken on a whole new meaning after a recent study claimed that Oreo cookies are as addictive as cocaine. In the study—designed to find out more about the addictiveness of high fat or high sugar foods—researchers from Connecticut College offered rats a choice of either a rice cake on one side of a maze or an Oreo cookie in the other.
And, well, to no one’s surprise the rats chose the cookies (duh) over the dry tasteless rice cakes. Later they repeated the experiment using an injection of saline on one side of the maze or an injection of cocaine on the other. And again, to no one’s surprise (duh), the rats choose the cocaine over the saline.
And here’s where things get a bit dicey. The researchers compared the amount of time the rats spent on each side of the maze, and from that concluded that Oreo’s are as addictive as cocaine.
So did this study really prove that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine? No, not really.
But as anyone who has ever given in to the temptation of junk food can attest, it’s awfully hard to eat just one cookie, cheese doodle, or French fry. Eating high fat or high sugar foods does indeed light up the reward centers in your brain (and in rat brains too, as the researchers were also able to show). Junk food tastes good and, not surprisingly, we enjoy eating things that taste good.
Replace junk food in your diet with healthy alternatives that also taste good. Fresh fruit, nuts, and the occasional piece of antioxidant rich dark chocolate can be just as rewarding, and unlike Oreos they don’t come with any downsides.