What Science Tells Us About The Munchies
It’s a well known fact that marijuana stimulates hunger — causing an unrivaled desire for food that many like to call the ‘munchies.’
While the munchies have proven useful in medical settings, scientists are still trying to understand exactly how it works. Indeed, the latest studies suggest this phenomenon is more complicated than once thought.
As it turns out, marijuana may affect appetite in a number of ways. Here are a few reasons why you might be experiencing the munchies…
Marijuana enhances your taste for sweets.
Marijuana’s action on the brain – which happens via pathways called cannabinoid receptors – has been found to enhance one of your five taste senses: the sweet taste. It does this by counteracting the effects of a hormone called leptin.
On the other hand, marijuana doesn’t seem to change salty, sour, bitter or umami tastes.
Marijuana increases the pleasure of eating.
Eating has been shown to activate the reward system of the brain, which involves the release of a chemical called dopamine. That means when you ingest food, your brain gets rewarded for it.
Compounds in marijuana are known to alter the release of dopamine in a variety of situations. When it comes to the munchies, THC has been found to amplify the dopamine release that occurs while eating.
Marijuana increases the desire for food.
Another important effect of the munchies is an increased desire for food. Studies suggest marijuana can increase the wanting of food – or appetite – in a number of ways.
One of these ways is related to dopamine levels, which regulate motivation as well as reward.
Another way marijuana increases appetite is by interacting with a hormone found in the gut called ghrelin. Ghrelin acts to increase appetite, but studies show its effect is also regulated by cannabinoid pathways. Research suggests THC can enhance ghrelin’s stimulation of appetite.
Marijuana enhances your sense of smell.
The latest discovery about the munchies involves a part of the brain responsible for smell: the olfactory bulb.
A study published this month in the journal Nature suggests THC may act on the olfactory bulb to increase the ability to smell food. The theory is that a heightened sense of smell caused by marijuana may also enhance taste.
Marijuana can suppress hunger — if you’re starving.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the munchies is how it affects you when you’re actually in need of food. Indeed, research suggests marijuana may reduce hunger in fasting conditions.
Recent studies show animals, that are first starved and then fed, tend to eat more when marijuana pathways in a specific part of the hypothalamus are blocked. Thus, scientists believe the munchies may not occur in all situations.
In fact, these findings suggest marijuana could have the opposite effect if you’re starving – in other words, convincing your brain that you’re not as hungry as you actually are.
Read more from LeafScience.com.
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