Have you ever wondered why smoking weed gives you the munchies? It’s not all in your head. There is some science to this insatiable hunger.
Chemicals in marijuana called cannabinoids play tricks on your hunger hormones. Our bodies naturally produce compounds called endocannabinoids, which work with receptors in our body, and hormones like leptin, to control our metabolism as well as indicate hunger and fullness. They make you feel hungry even if you are totally full.
A cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that tells you that you are full, go into overdrive when someone smokes marijuana, and instead of indicating satiety, it goes the opposite way and fires up the feelings of runaway hunger. We have a cluster of about 10,000 specialized brain cells that make up that “voice” in our head telling us to eat, or stop eating.
NPR quotes a number of studies that explains this theory, where mice whose POMC neuron clusters were shut down, became morbidly obese. These studies have not been conducted on humans, but since the hypothalamus is an ancient part of our brains, they reasonably conclude that humans endure the same effects.
On top of that, we don’t start craving kale salads. When our bodies think we are starving, it wants high fat, high calorie foods that will give a quick energy boost. This same phenomenon, which introduces a rush of dopamine, heightens our sense of taste and smell, giving us the sense that any food we encounter must get into our bellies.
So next time you get that uncontrollable urge for something Flaming Hot Cheetos nachos on top of a slice of pizza , rest assured knowing that’s how our brains are wired.
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