The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 24, 2013

Oreos: As bad as cocaine? Maybe

MANKATO — A new study suggests Oreos can be just as addictive as cocaine.

But one local dietitian says it’s a good idea to examine such studies carefully — and examine the reasons behind destructive eating habits even more carefully.

The gist of the study is this: Research by Connecticut College psychology professor Joseph Schroeder found that in lab rats that high-sugar, high-fat foods — such as Oreos — can be just as addictive as so-called “drugs of abuse,” such as cocaine.

“We found that the behavior they exhibited was equally strong for Oreo cookies as it was for cocaine or morphine,” Schroeder, the director of the Behavioral Neuroscience program at Connecticut College, told CBS News. “When we looked in the pleasure center of the brain, we found that the Oreo cookies activated the pleasure center more so than cocaine would activate the same center.”

The study came about when a student expressed interest in researching the obesity epidemic, noting that low-income areas tend to have a prevalence of fast-food options.

“Overall, it lent support to the hypothesis that high-fat, high-sugar foods can be viewed in the same ways as drugs of abuse and have addictive potential,” Schroeder told CBS. “It could be used to explain why some people have a problem staying away from foods that they know they shouldn’t eat or that they know are addictive.”

But Mankato Clinic dietitian Erin Gonzalez said it’s just as important to examine the reason people resort to addictive behavior in the first place.

Fear, stress, whatever it may be, should also be addressed when considering an addiction. Whether it’s the pleasure one receives form cocaine or Oreos, people return to that pleasure source in addictive ways to escape something. When people figure that out, address it and eliminate it as a problem, it’s easier to address the addiction.

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