Anyone who’s ever smoked or eaten cannabis or any products that contain THC will be all too familiar with the chemical hunger or ‘munchies’ that cannabis evokes.
But before we explore the topic of chemical hunger, let’s first take a look at CBD.
Cannabis and hemp plants contain over 100 cannabinoids, many of which may have therapeutic and psychoactive effects.
The two most popular and well-researched cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC makes users ‘high,’ whereas CBD doesn’t.
They both have different effects on the appetite.
How THC affects our appetite
THC produces cravings for sweet and fatty foods through several mechanisms. Primarily, THC increases the production of the hormone ghrelin, which is our bodies ‘hunger hormone’. When our stomachs are empty, we produce more ghrelin, which signals to the brain to generate the sensation of feeling hungry. THC increases ghrelin production, even if your stomach isn’t empty.
Secondly, THC stimulates the part of the brain that controls our hunger. This promotes our appetite as CB1 receptors inside the brain are switched on and become more active.
THC and dopamine
Finally, THC boosts our dopamine production, which is our natural ‘feel-good’ chemical.
Therefore eating becomes more pleasurable. THC can also enhance our sense of smell and taste, giving us more of an inclination to eat.
CBD and appetite
High quality CBD, in contrast, will not cause the munchies, but it may boost our appetites in other ways, especially when added to foods and drinks or taken as medication.
This has been seen in many patients undergoing chemotherapy and other nausea invoking treatments across the medical world. CBD helps to alleviate and relieve nausea and calm our nervous system and digestive tract.
Cbd and nausea
When we feel less nauseated, we can eat more, which is essential in people undergoing cancer treatments as they try to maintain their weight and reserve energy. Either THC, CBD, or both can be found in certain medical marijuana products. The legality of these products and medications depends on the country in which you reside.
Cannabis and weight control
Another exciting fact indicated by a body of research is that, despite having increased appetites, cannabis users tend to be leaner than nonusers of the same age and gender. In fact, in the general population, cannabis use is associated with lower body mass.
Cannabis can be used to help those who are underweight to reach an average weight. However, it doesn’t seem to follow a trend of making people put on weight if they are considered ‘normal’ for their age, height, and gender.
With researchers currently able to figure out how cannabis increases appetite, they may soon develop products to decrease appetite too. Many drugs are “inverse agonists,” meaning they bind to the same places in the brain but produce the opposite responses. Researchers are using this theory to investigate how they can reduce appetite using the CB1 receptors.