Cause of Munchies Found to be Olfactory Overdrive, Not Inherent Tastiness of Nachos
By Lenny Pierce on February 11, 2014
Stoners have long marveled at … well, everything I guess … but especially the sudden sense of hunger that strikes them half way through Waking Life (2001). In an effort to get to the bottom of this mysterious reaction, researchers smoked up some mice and found that it was a heightened sense of smell that may be causing the sudden increase in appetite. The connection of smell to hunger may lead to solutions for obesity and appetite loss that involve manipulating the cells affected by THC… or it may just lead to more annoying posts by pot smokers desperately defending the drug’s medical applications.
Scientists already know that THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in your brain, and that this binding inhibits the signals that tell you you’re full. However, since they also know that smell plays a key role in hunger, they figured this binding process couldn’t be all there is to it. Giovanni Mariscano of the INSERM research agency wanted to see if the effect that THC had on cannabinoid receptors also enhanced one’s sense of smell. Upon cheeching up a bunch of mice, researchers found that they not only ate more than their unaffected counterparts, but also responded to fainter whiffs of food, signaling the suspected heightened sense of smell. Had such a trail been run, I suspect the THC-affected mice would have also been observed dipping way more food items in ranch dressing than the un-drugged specimens.
Trials on mice show that one’s olfactory nerves go into overdrive when they are under the influence. (FriendsEAT)
If these findings are reflected in humans, they could mean new treatments for appetite disorders. For example, people suffering from obesity could have there cannabinoid receptors influenced to prevent hunger as a response to smell. This exact effect was attempted by a drug released by Sanofi-Aventis in 2006, but it was eventually withdrawn from the market for causing anxiety and depression (“freak outs” and “couch lock”). More intuitively, manipulating these cannabinoid receptors to increase a patient’s sense of smell, and, thus, their hunger, could help cancer patients suffering from appetite loss. Most importantly, the hunger enhancing effect of marijuana could allow you and your roommates to finish that meat lover’s pizza that’s going to go bad soon — a crucial step in getting your money’s worth on what was an expensive late night order.
What other conclusions might be drawn from the brain’s reaction to marijuana? Should its effects, both negative and positive, on anxiety, depression, and focus be studied further to help those struggling with these issues? Will it ever be possible to enjoy Widespread Panic unless you’re astronomically high? Tell us below.