When we consume Cannabis, most of us normally have some snacks on hand for when the infamous munchies strike. For many this “starving” hunger kicks in no matter if our bellies are full or not. Personally, I can enjoy a heavy indica, fall asleep full, and wake up in a few hours famished! But why does this sudden surge in appetite happen? Well apparently THC has been found to use natural neuron networks to trick our brain, let’s take a deeper look.
We know that THC affects the endocannabinoid system. This system helps control different aspects of our bodies such as memory, pain, sensitivity, and of course appetite. In one study, scientists exposed mice to bananas and almond oils in a scent sensitivity test. Sober, these mice sniffed the oils extensively and then seemed to lose interest. Fast forward, and to after these same mice have been exposed to THC. The exposed mice kept sniffing and showed enhanced sensitivity to smells. When given the option, the mice also ate much more. Next, these same scientists acquired some genetically engineered mice, created with a lack of a certain cannabinoid receptor in their olfactory bulbs. These mice, even when subjected to THC concentrates, seemed to be uninterested in the smells and lacked the appetite the others had.
These are just mice after all; however, all life is made up of the same elemental compounds. It is highly likely that the munchies could also be tied to the same receptor in the human olfactory lobe.
Let’s dig even deeper. Eating releases dopamine in humans, this is the chemical that’s contributed to the sensation of pleasure. Studies have found that THC also interacts with the hypothalamus causing a release of ghrelin that helps to stimulate hunger. A study conducted by Yale shows that the hypothalamus regulates a human’s bodily functions. Going to a smaller structural level, we all have POMC neurons; these have the intense job of regulating our appetite. When THC is introduced into our bodies, it turns off transmitters that are supposed to tell the POMCs that we are full; it’s time to slow down. On the contrary the THC signaled these neurons that we are not full and to keep sending appetite signals. Scientists were able to then take it one step further with the mice subjects. They decide to put the mice on a fasting diet. This drove the natural mice’s cannabinoid receptors in the olfactory lobe to rise, thus increasing the appetite. However, the genetically engineered mice showed no difference in their appetite and seemed perfectly content even though no food was provided.
These studies help to confirm that cannabis plays a role in our appetite and it is clear that cannabis interacts with our endocannabinoid system in an interesting way. Cannabis has been noted for centuries as an appetite enhancer, still used today for those who may have trouble keeping a healthy appetite. So, when we get hungry, our bellies are still full, but Cannabis plays a trick on our brain and inhibits the receptors from functioning properly. These effects are harmless to us, just make sure that you don’t engorge yourself to much, we have to keep healthy for swimsuit season!