Researchers at the University of Bordeaux say that the brain’s response to chocolate chip cookies is the same as its response to cocaine and THC. While such equivalencies are overblown, the claims are rooted in sound science—a testament to the complexity of mental health and addiction.
“Available evidence in humans shows that sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs,” the study’s abstract reads.
Your Brain’s Response
The reason for the addiction responses in the brain by chocolate chip cookies are due to the effects of its individual components, the study explains. The sweetest ingredient in cookies, sugar, has a powerful effect on the human mind, lighting up similar pathways as cocaine.
There’s a biological reason for this, as evolutionary pressures drove our ancestors to seek sustenance that was extremely high in calories. In other words, seeking out that feelgood hit of sugar was what separated those who lived and those who died back in the stone age. Our inheritance of this sugar-seeking trait is what makes dessert so darn tempting to us today, manifesting as a literal primal urge to cram it in our mouths.
Chocolate & Marijuana
Chocolate, on the other hand, gives us pleasure in a different way. Its bittersweet, melty flavor and texture hits our brains the same way as marijuana.
Putting these two potent ingredients together is what drove the chocolate chip cookie to become a timeless classic that has driven many children—and adults—to eat so many that they literally get sick.
Junk food and fast food companies know we can’t stop, driving Americans into a high-calorie, low-nutrient diet that leads to heart disease, cancer and diabetes—the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, according to the CDC.
Research has shown that the pull of sugars is so powerful that lab rats actually prefer a hit of sugar to a hit of drugs. It’s reasonable, considering cocaine does not contain life-sustaining sustenance.
“Overall, this research has revealed that sugar and sweet reward can not only substitute to addictive drugs, like cocaine, but can even be more rewarding and attractive,” the study’s abstract continues. “At the neurobiological level, the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward appear to be more robust than those of cocaine (i.e., more resistant to functional failures), possibly reflecting past selective evolutionary pressures for seeking and taking foods high in sugar and calories.”
This research hasn’t proven to be an accurate model of human behavior, however. In 2016, the sales of marijuana in legal states exceeded the expenditures on Girl Scout Cookies, Oreos, Pringles, and Dasani bottled water…combined.