The effects of cannabis or THC on increasing appetite, namely “the munchies”, has been known for quite some time. But how much do we really understand about what causes this urge to stuff our faces with all the snack and junk foods within our immediate vicinity?
Scientists have become increasingly interested in exactly what happens to our brains (and stomachs) when cannabis is introduced into our system. By understanding the chemical reactions that happen in our brains, some scientists believe they might be able to harness the powers of THC and CBD to control and modulate appetite. This could potentially lead to breakthroughs in helping a variety of health issues including anorexia, loss of appetite due to cancer or other illnesses, or even combat urges to overeat and help fight obesity. There are even some cannabis oils you can make at home.
How your brain and stomach communicate
Before we can understand how cannabis affects our appetite, it’s important to understand how the brain and stomach interact. The system of the brain and nervous system that communicates with the gut is known as theendocannabinoid system (remind you of something?). The endocannabinoid system regulates several physiological processes such as mood, memory, fertility, reward, and of course, appetite.
The endocannabinoid system is also home to the main cannabinoid receptors in the brain, CB1 and CB2. These receptors are used to mediate the effects of cannabis.
What do we really know about the munchies and the effects of THC on appetite?
So now that we know that the same part of the brain that controls appetite is home to the cannabinoid receptors in your brain, how does cannabis interact with those receptors to give you a serious case of the munchies? Jon Davis, a WSU neuroscientist, decided to conduct a research study to find out.
He conducted research on rats by exposing them to cannabis vapor from a Sativa strain containing about 7.8 percent THC. He then used epigenetics (an MRI like imaging system that maps the brain) to study the rats in question.
The first thing they found was that there was a decrease in glutamate after the rats were first exposed to the cannabis vapor. Which is interesting because decreasing glutamate actually suppresses appetite! Meaning when you first start feeling the effects of THC you may not think about food at all.
Then the grehlin starts playing a role. Grehlin is a hormone found in the stomach. Davis and his partners found that grehlin levels began to gradually increase in the rats after being exposed to THC. Once the grehlin levels rise, the urge to eat increases with them. This may explain why the munchies aren’t usually an immediate response after you smoke, eat, or vape (my personal favorite method of enjoying my herbal medicine).
Davis believes that delay could help unleash the power to use cannabis as not only a treatment for increasing appetite but also potentially suppressing it. You can read more about Davis and his researchhere.
What about CBD?
In addition to THC, there is another important compound in cannabis known as CBD. For years CBD was relatively unknown but, recently, as cannabis regulations are becoming less strict and more research is being conducted, CBD has entered the spotlight as a possible treatment for a variety of issues such as generalized social anxiety disorder (as published bythe Journal of Psychopharmacology) and depression (the British Journal of Pharmacology) or as a potential option to combat pain and inflammation in people who suffer from arthritis (as a study bytheEuropean Journal of Pain states).
In addition to the above benefits, new research conducted by a Korean study forthe Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry Scientific Journal found that CBD might also be able to help combat obesity and weight gain. The study was mainly focused on CBDs effects on inducing “fat browning”. Fat browning is done by converting white colored fat tissue (WAT-white adipose tissue), which stores energy, to beige colored fat tissue (BAT-brown and beige adipose tissue), which burns it. Check out the other CBD Oil Benefits.
In the study, CBD was found to be able to induce fat browning, resulting in the following: Stimulating the genes and proteins that enhance the breakdown and oxidization of fat, decreasing the expression of the proteins involved in fat cell generation (lipogenesis), and increasing the activity of mitochondria (which in turn increases the body’s ability to burn calories).
Does cannabis hold the key to the future of moderating appetite?
Studies are still too new to be certain of what the future may hold, but one thing that is certain is the scientific community is taking note of the link between cannabis and appetite, which can only lead to further research and, possibly, future breakthroughs.
Who knew the munchies could hold the key to unlocking such exciting scientific advances?
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