Turns out there’s a flip side to the ‘Munchies’ coin: the stuff in Marijuana that makes most folks hungry is also present naturally in our bodies, and may be triggering a tendency to overeat, even in those of us who don’t use Weed. And one in three North American adults is already overweight or obese.
A double whammy: High-fat, high-energy foods like Pizza can increase the
body’s production of its own endocannabinoids at the same time
as cannabis users are adding more from ‘outside
sources’, triggering overeating…
Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring molecules that effect the way our bodies send and receive metabolic signals to our digestive systems. Now, researchers from the University of California – Riverside (UCR) say they’ve traced the process by which cannabinoids can block those signals causing overeating.
What they did
As is often the case, basic experiments like these are conducted on ‘mouse models’, from which results can usually be extrapolated to the human experience.
Experimenters simply fed mice a high-energy (high Sugar and high Fat) diet for 60 days and monitored endocannabinoid activity at cannabinoid receptors in the critters’ digestive systems.
What they found
Increased activity at those cannabinoid receptors inhibited the production of signals that would normally inhibit the urge to continue eating. Outwardly, the mice gained considerable weight.
Scientists say their findings confirmed the results of a previous study in rats in which consumption of a high-fat meal stimulated the production of endocannabinoids, resulting in overeating. And a further study showed levels of endocannabinoids in humans also increase just prior to and after eating a palatable high-energy food, and are chronically elevated in obese humans.
“If drugs could be developed to target these cannabinoid receptors so that the release of satiation [signals] is not inhibited during excessive eating, we would be a step closer to addressing the prevalence of obesity that affects millions of people in the [U.S.] and around the world,” said study spokesperson Dr. Nicholas V. DiPatrizio.
It just makes sense, really that Weed-like substances occurring naturally in the body would have the same effects as those introduced to the body via Marijuana consumption. And The Munchies have been formally confirmed as a legitimate phenomenon in other recent experiments. One thing the UCR experimenters did not address was the double whammy that Weed users must get when their bodies are producing excess endocannabinoids and they add more by consuming Weed. That sounds like it would produce a really powerful case of The Munchies!
About the opportunities to develop anti-obesity drugs targeting the cannabinoid receptors in the digestive system… Sounds like that’s one way to help discourage overeating. But there are certainly other triggers, both chemical and psychological, to overeating than just this one. They all need to be addressed by creating multidisciplinary treatment plans that cover the whole spectrum.
~ Maggie J.