The Science Behind Why Weed Gets You Hungry

We do our best to break down the phenomenon known only as the munchies.

Think cannabis and the munchies are never far behind. The stereotypical red-eyed, fuzzy-brained stoner is never imagined without food within reach. The phenomenon of ganja-induced gluttony is perhaps one of the most glorified side-effects of cannabis — the user becomes ravenous and the food suddenly tastes sublime. Here, we do our best to break down the phenomenon known only as the munchies.

Normally, we experience hunger due to signals sent between the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the hypothalamus (commonly known as the “hunger centre”) in the brain. The vagus nerves which surround the GI tract are stimulated by the neuropeptide ghrelin, which sends signals to the hypothalamus whenever macronutrient levels in the bowel and stomach are low, thus creating the sensation of hunger.

How weed makes us hungrier:

The enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is produced in response to the ghrelin-induced stimulations of the GHS-R1a receptors of the vagus nerves. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in marijuana effectively moonlight the functions of ghrelin by switching on the GHS-R1a receptors and produce the sensation of hunger even though there may be plenty of macronutrients present in the stomach.

A study on mice which were genetically modified to lack the CB1 cannabinoid receptors, when externally supplied with ghrelin they did not display an appetite-stimulating effect. This was in contrast to unmodified wild-mice, who showed a marked increase in appetite levels when provided with ghrelin showing that the cannabinoid receptors stimulated by THCs helped increase sensations of hunger.

Pot and the heart:

In the event of a heart attack, the effect of cannabinoids on AMPK activity is believed to reduce the area of the necrosis tissue, thus containing the damage caused to heart and circulatory system. Ghrelin and cannabinoids are also known to help blood flow in cases of ischemia (inadequate blood supply to organs, especially the heart).

Cannabinoids and ghrelin are also known to inhibit AMPK activity in the liver and fatty tissue, helping maintain weight and body fat. This could explain why a large proportion of cannabis users are slimmer than non-users even with minimal to no physical activity.

In conclusion, cannabis smokers can probably enjoy the occasional munchie episode without feeling too guilty knowing that they are probably providing their body with sufficient protection against over-indulging in unhealthy food by protecting the heart and curtailing the deposition of body fat.

Pot and Sugar:

Cannabis’ effect on blood sugar levels is well documented, and for an inexperienced smoker, too much pot could cause a significant drop in blood sugar levels which could leave them feeling weak, sick and even render them temporarily unconscious. Generally, low blood sugar coupled with cannabis’ hunger-fuelling effects could drastically increase levels of hunger felt by a smoker.

A sugary drink or a quick snack helps combat effects of low sugar if experienced. Consuming more substantial food within an hour of a cannabis-induced low blood sugar attack helps balance blood sugar levels in the body.

Recommended reads:

How Long Does Weed Stay In Your System?

5 Legal Substances Way More Addictive Than Weed That Corporations Dont Want You To Know

The Science Behind What Happens To Your Brain On Weed

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