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It’s common knowledge that using cannabis can lead to hunger, so much so that this feeling has been dubbed the “munchies.” Although this phenomenon has been somewhat understood for several years, a new federally funded study published by Scientific Reports has uncovered exactly what leads to the rush of hunger that often comes with marijuana.
So, What Really Causes the Munchies?
Prior studies have determined that a reaction in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) causes the munchies. The ECS is responsible for regulating memory, appetite, and hormones, so it’s feasible that cannabis use can stimulate hunger through hormonal reactions. However, we now know more about the specific areas of the brain and body targeted by cannabis.
In the newest study, which was conducted by researchers at Washington State University, scientists administered vaporized cannabis to mice. Next, they used brain-scanning technology similar to MRIs to see what parts of the brain were affected by the cannabis sativa.
They found that a cluster of cells in the hypothalamus were activated. The main function of the hypothalamus is to keep the body in a stable state of stasis, and activating that specific cell cluster can lead to hunger. These findings build on previous research on cannabis and the ECS, providing more answers on how exactly cannabis stimulates hunger.
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“Based on these results, we conclude that MBH neurons contribute to the appetite stimulatory properties of inhaled cannabis,” the scientists wrote in their report.
The mice in the study reacted predictably: they ate more frequently, although they ate smaller portions at each meal.
What Does This Mean For Cannabis Research?
Cannabis as a weight-loss solution has been becoming an increasing topic of interest, so having a better understanding of how it interacts with our bodies’ hunger systems is crucial. Some cannabis strains don’t cause the munchies at all, and marijuana has also been found to reduce people’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
As cannabis legalization spreads throughout the country, we may uncover even more about how cannabis and the munchies go together.