Munchie Science: Researchers Discover The Link Between Cannabis And Hunger
Ever had the munchies?
It’s a peculiar condition that often results in multiple empty food packets appearing in the kitchen.
And the lounge.
And the bedroom.
It can cause humans to consume several times their own body weight of potato crisps in the space of a few minutes, but still, continue eating. It has been the subject of jokes in movies and is a well-known phenomenon amongst those who have experience with cannabis use.
If you’re not a cannabis user then there’s no need to worry, the munchies only seem to affect those who enjoy smoking or eating marijuana.
So what are the munchies and what causes them?
Jon Davis, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Washington State University thinks he may have found the answer to that question. Davis and a team of students at Washington State University have been searching for the reason why cannabis increases feelings of Hunger. They hope that their research will help them to discover a way to combat the malnutrition experienced by over 80% of cancer patients whilst undergoing chemotherapy.
And they think they may have found the answer.
Davis and his team exposed rats to full spectrum cannabis smoke and studied their eating behavior. They discovered that the rats who had been exposed to the marijuana ate more frequently than the control group (who were not allowed to get stoned). Davies found that levels of Ghrelin, a hunger hormone, were higher in the rats that had been exposed to the cannabis.
Ghrelin is a hormone that sends signals to the brain that tells it we need to eat. Cannabis appears to increase the levels of ghrelin so the brain thinks it needs to eat more. This could explain the strange behavior exhibited by some people who are afflicted by the munchies, as they are easily able to eat 3 pizzas followed by another 6 pizzas.
No other drug causes the munchies!
“We don’t know of any other drugs ..that do that,” said Davis.
Ghrelin has long been known as the “hunger hormone,” but Davis said this is the first time that researchers have discovered a direct causal link which includes ghrelin. When the rats became stoned their ghrelin levels rose and they began to eat more. When ghrelin levels fell again, the rats eating behavior returned to normal.
Davis said ghrelin could also explain the delay between smoking cannabis and the onset of Munchies:
“It’s not like when people smoke marijuana, they immediately go to McDonald’s,” he said. “It’s always a couple hours later.”
Synthetic versions of ghrelin are available but they have not yet been approved for use in humans. Cannabis could provide a cheap and safe substitute to synthetic ghrelin, and if successful, the treatment would be welcomed by the many cancer sufferers who find it difficult to eat sufficient quantities of food.
“There’s a lot of important research we’d like to do with humans,” Davis said.
“We need volunteers who want to smoke a lot of cannabis and eat tasty food,” he said.