Bad Science Leads to Bad Results

I’m sure you’ve seen the stories floating around that say scientists of proven that Oreo cookies are just as addictive as cocaine. At first this story gave me hope. I’ve eaten Oreo cookies but have never become addicted to them. If the research was correct that would indicate I could do cocaine without getting addicted. I admit, there are times when caffeine isn’t enough to keep me awake and it would be nice to know a nonaddictive, strong alternative exists for those times when I absolutely must stay awake. Sadly my hopes have been dashed. As it turns out, the research was bupkis:

Fox News reported that a “College study finds Oreo cookies are as addictive as drugs,” Forbes explained “Why Your Brain Treats Oreos Like a Drug,” and a ton of other sites ran with the story as well.

Here’s how the experiment, which has not been peer reviewed and has not been presented yet, went down. Mice were placed in a maze, with one end holding an Oreo and the other end holding a rice cake. The mice, without fail, decided to eat the Oreo over the rice cake, proving once and for all that mice like cookies better than tasteless discs with a styrofoamy texture.

“Just like humans, rats don’t seem to get much pleasure out of eating them,” one of the researchers said in a press release, the same press release that says “Connecticut College students and a professor of neuroscience have found ‘America’s favorite cookie’ is just as addictive as cocaine.”

Bad science leads to bad results. Granted, this story set off my bullshit detector right away. Because of my suspicious nature I assumed that the research was performed by an anti-obesity group looking to demonize popular junk foods or by a competitor to Oreo cookies (probably from a company that offers healthier alternatives). As gun control groups have taught us, the results you want can be obtained so long as you right the criteria properly. But it turns out that this research wasn’t the result of some anti-obesity group or an Oreo competitor (that we know of), it was the result of a bad experiment. All the experiment demonstrated was that mice don’t care for rice cakes. I don’t blame them, I find them to be flavorless and unfilling as well.

Unfortunately, I’ll almost certainly see claims that Oreo cookies are as addictive as cocaine on Facebook for weeks to come. Incorrect information seems to disseminate faster than correct information. That’s probably because correct information is seldom makes for as good of a story as incorrect information.