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The latest abuse of rats comes from Connecticut College.

Professor Joseph Schroeder conducted an experiment involving rats, mazes, Oreos, rice cakes, and cocaine. Given how toxic and the bad rap Oreos have it is a wonder that the professor was able to legally secure Oreos to use along with the cocaine and politically correct rice cakes without being arrested. It’s also a wonder that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals weren’t picketing the professor’s lab for giving rats Oreos.

The good professor put some Oreos and rice cakes in a maze and let the rats go at it. The rats went for the Oreos. I don’t know how much the professor gets paid a year, but the college could have hired an exterminator for a couple of hundred dollars that could  have come up with the same conclusion. If you doubt that ask someone who has dealt with rats or mice in their kitchens. They always go for the good stuff.

The professor and his assistants then replaced Oreos with cocaine. The rats went for the cocaine over the rice cakes.

Based on a rather limited stunt, headlines have screamed that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine. The professor believes cocaine and Oreos stimulate the same chemical reactions in the brain that may lead to making substances addictive.

Besides giving ammo to the food police, the stunt in Connecticut does have a practical application. The American Association of Rice Cake Manufacturers could use it to start injecting Oreos or cocaine into rice cakes to increase sales. What’s a little sugar or cocaine if it can addict you to eating healthier?

Feeding rats cocaine and Oreos with the apparent objective to villainize popular food items is nothing new.

Back in the 1960s a university receiving federal grants that had professors with too much time on their hands did a hatchet job on cyclamates. It was a popular sweetener used in a variety of diet products such as soda. It had been determined to be safe by Food and Drug Administration standards based on how humans consumed them.

A researcher who lives in a world of publish or perish decided to surgically implant cyclamate pellets into the bladders of rats. Lo and behold some of the rats developed bladder cancer.

The cyclamate pellets they were given was the equivalent dosage of a rat being given 350 cans of diet soda a day, everyday for three months. Eight out of 240 rats developed bladder cancer.

The National Academy of Sciences tried to point out the false premise of the rat study. Scientists with the academy noted humans don’t consume cyclamates by having them surgical implanted in their bladders but instead consume them as part of a food or drink product. They also pointed out that it was impossible for humans to consume proportionately as much cyclamates given the slight weight difference between a man and a rat.

But it didn’t matter. Once the study was released hysteria took over. Cyclamates supposedly caused bladder cancer, birth defects and a wide array of fatal diseases based on the rat research.

The United States then reversed itself and banned cyclamates. Other nations did not. It is a legal sweetener in 55 nations. The tests other countries did show the same results of the original tests that led to the FDA approving cyclamates before a researcher put rats on a cyclamate diet equivalent to consuming 350 cans of diet soda a day.

The National Cancer Institute in 1989 released the result of 17 years of research involving monkeys. The monkeys were given cyclamates to ingest what was the equivalent of consuming 30 cans of soda a day. They received that dosage five days a week for 17 years. Not one monkey developed bladder cancer.

But the damage has already been done.

Some scientists note that cyclamates tend to be significantly sweeter than sugar making it a pleasant and viable alternative to sugar and other approved artificial sweeteners. In pointing that out, they note that it is quite possible people who used food products employing cyclamates in a bid to reduce calorie consumption would have been better off in the long run if it reduced obesity and the proven ailments that it causes. 

There had to have been an objective in the Connecticut College study. It was a simple classroom exercise and it should have been kept at that level.

It wouldn’t be surprising to somehow see the Oreos-are-as-addictive-as-cocaine argument to get traction in a bid to further the assault on “junk” food. Of course, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. We can’t all afford to buy organic food, eat in gourmet restaurants or satisfy sweet cravings with chocolate soufflés.

So what if Oreos are addictive? So are other things such as Cheez-Its and even $2,000 bottles of wine.

Based on the loose inference of the Connecticut College study I am a recovering Oreo addict. I haven’t eaten one in years but there were times I could polish off a family-sized bag practically in one setting. I also consumed my share of cyclamate laden diet soda growing up.

After 57 years, I haven’t dropped dead yet. Meanwhile the lives of countless rats have been cut short and now there are cocaine and Oreo addicted rats in Connecticut.

And it’s all because people like myself refuse to surrender unconditionally to the food police and their merry band of rat torturing researchers.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.