If you've ever smoked weed, chances are you've felt pretty hungry afterwards. Maybe you even said “I'm starving” as you plowed through a Nachos BellGrande, a Quesarito Combo AND a Crunchwrap Supreme.
Ahh the munchies. That insatiable craving for anything and everything you can fit into your mouth that looks remotely like food, upon ingesting cannabis. Finally, it seems our good friend Science has discovered why marijuana gives people the munchies.
Cannabis users and doctors alike have long known that smoking weed increases ones appetite, says Yale University School of Medicine neurobioligist Tamas Horvath.
“What drives that, nobody has ever really known. Well, we accidentally bumped into that”
In a recent paper published by the Nature Neuroscience journal Horvath and his colleagues have found that cannabis in fact tricks your brain into thinking you're starving, even if you're full.
“We were surprised to find that the neurons we thought were responsible for shutting down eating, were suddenly being activated and promoting hunger, even when you are full. It fools the brain's central feeding system.” It's kind of like pressing a car's brakes and accelerating instead.
It only makes sense that food would taste better when one is extremely hungry. Well with weed, it's like you're always extremely hungry, therefore everything seems to taste amazing.
Our brains produce their own cannabinoids, lipids that help to control our appetite, mood, memory and pain reception. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, produced in marijuana latches on to cannabinoid receptors in our brain, mimicking the same chemicals.
Horvath had found that THC flips a switch in the mouse's hypothalamus Instead of producing the chemical signals you're full, suddenly neurons start telling the hypothalamus you're hungry. Starved even.
Horvath's lab found in earlier studies that cannabis also plays with cannabinoid receptors in olfactory bulb, which not only makes food smell and taste more intense, it also affects how much we eat. So not only are you convinced that you're ravenous, but things smell and taste better than they do when you're not high, which is kind of a double whammy.
While this all may be a little annoying if you're trying to lose weight or cut back on your fast food intake, the link between hunger and THC is potentially great news for people who are having trouble eating due to illness or other medical reasons. For instance, marijuana has been shown to be an effective appetite stimulant in cancer patients. If researchers know exactly what causes that appetite surge, they may be able to use the munchies to benefit those who need it.