Why Oreos are as Addictive as Cocaine to Your Brain
Virtually everyone who has heard of Oreo cookies loves Oreos, and because there are over 20 different flavors, you’re bound to find just the right one which will satisfy your sweet tooth.
And there are some crazy flavors like Cinnamon Bun, Red Velvet, Golden Birthday Cake, Peanut Butter, Mint, Caramel Apple, Banana Split, Jelly Donut, Candy Corn, and so on. You get the idea.
We all know that Oreos aren’t really healthy for you, but they are the perfect comfort food when you’re having a bad day so there’s no harm in eating a few every now and then.
I remember when my friend opened a pack of Oreos at a party the other day and I ate half of them and she looked at me like I was an animal, we haven’t heard from each other since.
Anyhow, anybody who’s ever eaten a whole pack of Oreos, myself included, sure knows how addictive they can be and some people even feel guilty after eating so much of them because they don’t know what made them eat so many Oreos.
Some studies suggest that Oreos are actually as addictive as drugs to your brain so today we’re going to research just that and find out if this claim is true or not.
Before we see how do Oreos affect your brain, first we must examine what are Oreos made from and which ingredients might cause addiction so next time we try to munch on 10 Oreos we might stop at 5.
One basic flavored Oreo cookie contains the following ingredients:
- Unbleached flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
- Sugar (6.6g per cookie)
- Palm and/or canola oil
- Cocoa (processed with alkali)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Leavening (baking soda and/or calcium phosphate)
- Artificial flavoring
Allergens such as wheat and soybeans could also be found (I’m so thankful that I’m not allergic to wheat as for me, living without Oreos is torture).
These ingredients show that Oreos aren’t as unhealthy as you thought at first because they don’t contain so many emulsifiers as other junk-food does, and if you have all of these ingredients lying around in your fridge, you can make some home-made Oreos (just saying).
One cookie has about 70 calories, 3.3g of fat, 12.1g of total carbs, 6.6g of sugar, and 0.7g of protein.
So as we said, Oreo cookies aren’t really a vitamin bomb and won’t really help you lose weight when you’re on a diet, but on the other hand, they’ll give you lots of energy because of all the sugar.
Basically, if you eat 10 Oreos, you’ll consume nearly 90% of the daily recommended intake of sugar, which is a scary fact to learn especially when you’ve already eaten a whole pack of them this morning when you were driving to work.
Scientists believe that high amounts of sugar and fat are what cause addiction similar to cocaine, but will later see which studies can support that claim and which go against it.
Next, we’ll examine what cocaine consists of and then we’ll see if there are maybe some similarities with Oreo cookies in their chemical compounds or is it just because of all the sugar.
WHAT MAKES COCAINE SO ADDICTIVE?
Sorry to disappoint you but, we’re not going to teach you how to make cocaine by yourself because it’s impossible to make it without proper laboratory equipment and because it’s illegal.
Besides, we don’t know how to make cocaine and don’t approve of anyone using drugs.
We’re just going to analyze which chemical substances are found in cocaine which causes addiction.
Cocaine is a chemical substance called benzoylmethylecgonine and it is extracted from the leaves of the Erythroxylum coca plant, which usually grows at high altitudes in the regions of Peru, Columbia, and Bolivia in South America, but can also be found on the island of Java in Indonesia.
Regardless of how it is consumed, whether by injection, smoking or nasal inhalation, cocaine rapidly increases the brain’s dopamine supply which triggers pleasurable sensations and feelings of joy, happiness, euphoria but also feelings such as anger, paranoia, fear, and sadness.
People who use cocaine get addicted because of two reasons:
- They get addicted to the feeling of the drug and the energy it gives them so they continue to take the drug at parties and concerts. More often than not this leads to even a daily consumption of the drug, which is not only a health risk but also an expensive “pass-time”.
- The body starts to get used to the high dopamine levels and builds up resistance to the drug over time, resulting in higher dosage intakes than the initial start of consumption. This means that an addict will use more and more of the drug in order to feel the “buzz” as he used to at the beginning of his addiction.
Typically, one dose of cocaine makes the person feel its effect for half an hour to two hours maximum and then the body starts craving more because the dopamine levels are dropping rapidly.
When the effects of the cocaine wear of and when the dopamine levels fall below down the normal limit, withdrawal starts to kick in and some symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Stomach pain and nausea
- Inflammation of the heart muscle
- Kidney damage
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Narrowed blood vessels
- Rupture of the aorta
- Possible death
The brain gets used to the high levels of dopamine over time and with prolonged use of the drug an overdose can occur which is characterized by depression, fatigue, paranoia, muscle convulsions, irritability, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
If not medically treated, an overdose can soon lead to death either because of lack of oxygen to the brain, cardiac arrest, blood clot in the brain, lungs, and heart and so on.
If we take a look at the graphic closely, we can see that cocaine usage it isn’t dropping soon nor are cocaine-related deaths, even though drug prevention organizations are doing everything they can to educate young people on drugs and their effects on the body, but also to help the addicts cope with their addiction and lay off the drugs.
As you can see, you should never try cocaine or any other mind-altering drugs for that matter, as the disadvantages of health risks outweigh the advantages of an hour of euphoria by a long shot.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?
Now that we’ve seen how many health risks are linked to cocaine and why no one should ever take drugs in their life, a question remains – are Oreos really addictive as cocaine?
Obviously, if you were to choose between buying cocaine and Oreos if you want to feel happy, you should choose Oreos, not only because they won’t give you a nosebleed the day after, but also Oreos are much cheaper than cocaine.
You can buy a hundred packs of Oreos for just one gram of cocaine, and that’s if the street value of the cocaine is $100, which isn’t even pure cocaine, and no I’m not a drug dealer I just watched the show Narco more than the average person.
Besides, no one has died from eating too much Oreos yet, although according to The Times there was a guy from Kentucky who wanted to sue Nabisco for because he thought that Oreo cookies are slowly killing him.
The reality is that if you eat or drink enough of any food or drink you can die, for example, if you chug three gallons of water you might pass out and die before you finish the second gallon.
You should eat and drink everything in moderate and balanced quantity.
Anyways, let’s see what scientists think about the addictive part of Oreos and if they are as addictive as drugs.
A study was done on this topic in 2010 by scientists at Connecticut College and they gave rats Oreos to see how they will react to the sugar from the cookies.
They’ve found out that the “pleasure center” or the nucleus accumbens of the brain responded the same way to Oreos as it would to cocaine or morphine.
Scientists are debating that this research could also apply to humans as well, and could explain why we can’t lay off the cookies when we already ate a whole pack of Oreos.
Also, the scientists found out that rats, as well as humans, like to eat the Oreo’s creamy center first (I don’t trust people who say they like the cookie part of the Oreo more).
The study was conducted to see how many cells were activated in a specific region of the brain in response to the cookies and the drugs.
What’s really shocking is that, according to Professor Joseph Schroeder who led the experiment, Oreos activated even more cells than the drugs and this may prove that foods rich with sugar and fats such as Oreos can be as addictive as cocaine.
A study from Canada, similar to this one was published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2013 and included one group of mice on a low-fat diet (11% calories of fat) and another group of mice on high fat (58% calories of fat) for six weeks.
At the end of the study, the mice fed with high-fat food increased 11 times in size, which in mice scale isn’t actually considered overweight, but still, it’s a staggering result.
They’ve also appeared more anxious and had a higher level of CREB molecule, which plays a role in dopamine production.
In an interview for Huffington Post, Dr. Stephanie Fulton from the University of Montreal said that this study has shown how feelings like depression and anxiety, along with a negative behavior cycle can occur because of a change in a diet which can also trigger withdrawal symptoms and our inability to deal with stressful situations.
This research shows that foods which are rich in fats and sugars can lead to obesity if their daily intake isn’t controlled, but things still aren’t really clear whether or not such foods can cause addicted on.
Some researchers think otherwise, such as Gabriel Harris, an assistant professor of food science at NCSU who gave an interview for LiveScience.
He says that we as humans are biologically wired to respond to certain tastes, colors, and textures, but that doesn’t mean that we get addicted to them.
And it’s a strong claim not only because the other studies were conducted on mice and rats and not on humans, which by the way isn’t going to happen soon because we don’t live in the 16th century anymore and such experiments aren’t legal to conduct, but also because people don’t really eat junk food because they like having high dopamine levels but rather because they simply like the taste of junk food.
This claim could also be supported by the remarks of other researchers who are constantly criticizing governments which provide financial aid to junk-food production which causes a great portion of the population to be obese.
Clearly, the study of this topic should be directed in a different direction in order for us to get the answer we’re looking for as scientists can’t really provide us with enough proof that Oreos really do cause addiction, at least with humans.
And, because no human has gone through such an experiment, which would be unethical for a bunch of different reasons, we need to redirect our attention to a much more serious problem which Oreos can cause to our health.
ADDICTION OR OBESITY
Claiming that specifically, Oreos are addictive as cocaine or that only they cause obesity is in itself not a research-based statement, mainly because there are other sugars and fat enriched foods and drinks on the market which are way worse for your health such as Coca Cola, Gummy Bears, the whole McDonald’s basically.
So instead of looking for an answer what goes in our brain when we eat Oreos and are the chemical reactions which occur the same as if we consume cocaine, we should examine why people eat Oreos in the first place.
Obviously, Oreos taste amazing, and with a big glass of milk, they taste even more amazing.
The same goes with fried bacon, burritos, hamburgers, sodas, milkshakes, and so on.
People are going to eat whatever they want, when they want and how much they want.
We can’t stop people from eating large amounts of Oreos by explaining to them that these cookies trigger dopamine in your brain but rather telling them that they will get obese and will have serious health risks because of all the sugar and fats.
You see, the normal range for dopamine is 0 to 30 pg/mL and sugar is known to double that amount if you eat a lot of it and if you eat it frequently.
When you’re constantly eating sugary foods, your brain gets used to a much higher dopamine level, so when you stop eating so much sugar, you fall into, what is called a “sugar withdrawal” which can last from a day or two to even two weeks.
According to Healthline, some symptoms of sugar withdrawal include:
- Depression – You will feel down, in a bad mood and will experience a lack of enjoyment in things which interest you and you find pleasurable.
- Anxiety – you’ll become a lot more anxious and nervous most of the time and also will feel tired and irritated which might make you have less patience with others than usual.
- Sleep patterns – You will experience changes in your sleeping pattern, meaning that you’ll either have a hard time going to sleep or you’ll even feel tired all the time and bound to your bed.
- Cognitive issues – You’ll start losing focus at school or at work and will be more prone to arguments with other people. Focusing on tasks will be much harder than before and you’ll basically be useless.
- Cravings – Your body will start to crave sugar and other foods mainly packed with carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, and pastry.
Again, you can experience all of these side effects of sugar withdrawal only if you’ve consumed a much higher dose of sugar than the recommended daily intake and when you stop eating so much sugar all of sudden.
This means that going cold turkey really isn’t your best choice if you see that you have a sweet-tooth which can’t be satisfied so easily. Instead, you should try to balance your diet, and stop eating so much sugar little by little.
We suggest that instead of eating 10 Oreos today, you eat 9 of them, and tomorrow you’ll eat just 8, so by continuing this pattern, you’ll be sugar-free in 10 days, or at least Oreo free.
Now, because it’s really a torture to live without Oreos, especially when they were your daily snack, you can give yourself a break and at a pack every now and then, but don’t over-due it, because being obese isn’t fun.
Since we’re on the topic of obesity, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, some statistics from 2016 show devastating results:
- More than 2 in 3 adults were considered to be overweight and have obesity.
- About 1 in 13 adults were considered to be morbidly obese.
- About 1 in 6 children ages six to nineteen were considered to have obesity.
And obesity can lead to serious health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular disorders, difficulty moving or walking and even death. And this isn’t even the beginning of the list.
Someone would ask what has the world come to, but we know that this problem isn’t only present in America.
Virtually every area of the planet which is considered to be an adherent of globalization, which offers cheap sugar and fat enriched junk-food along with other unhealthy things such as sketchy medication, has an increasing number of obese people.
But obesity doesn’t stop where globalization stops, as we can see that in different cultures which offer sugary foods, for example, Morocco, Turkey, Oman, and Indonesia, there are also obese people walking the streets.
This means that the only way we can stop people from getting obese is to ban sugary and fatty foods altogether, and because that’s not really possible because of all the big industries which bring lots of money to the government and also because people need to eat something in order to survive, we need to educate people on the topic of how sugar affects our body and why we need to have a balanced diet to stay healthy.
Because even if the government was to ban all sugar products, including Oreos, people would still find a way to get their Oreo “fix” because someone would surely import it illegally, just like cocaine is imported today. I don’t think that any government wants a “Cookie Cartel” illegally importing large amounts of Oreos into the state, costing them millions of dollars just to prevent transportation.
The reality is that people get “addicted” to Oreos because they like the taste of them and not because they want to raise their dopamine levels even if that is exactly what they are doing and so we can’t really blame the Oreos for tasting so good because that would be a sin in my book.
All in all, whether you believe that people get addicted to Oreos because of a change in dopamine levels or because they just taste so amazing is your choice at the end of the day.
There is some truth on both sides and scientists are trying to back them both up, and we’ll see which side will win in the end.
Either way, you shouldn’t feel too upset because of all this data, you should just control yourself next time you open a pack of Oreos, and if you’re concerned about your health so much, just eat a few of them and share the rest with your friends because they’ll surely appreciate it and no one is going to pass on an Oreo (at least no one I know, I’m not friends with Oreo haters).
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