It is widely known that marijuana consumption can induce feelings of hunger, known in Brazil as “munchies”. Now, new research in the United States reveals more details about how Cannabis stimulates the appetite and what this knowledge can be used for.
Researchers at Washington State University exposed rats and mice to Cannabis to stimulate specific areas of the brain associated with appetite. They also analyzed the eating patterns of these rodents, including how often they ate.
DW heard independent experts, that is, those who were not part of the study, to find out more about the topic. For Donald Abrams, an oncologist at the University of California, San Francisco, the findings represent a valuable contribution to existing research into the medicinal use of Cannabis.
“Rats are not people,” Abrams said. “But as someone who went to college in the 1960s, [eu] I know that the Cannabis stimulates the appetite.”
And this could be useful to help people undergoing cancer treatment, for example, who have a lack of appetite but need to eat anyway to maintain strength.
Cannabis activates appetite-related neurons
In the research, scientists subjected rats and mice to moderate doses of steam. Cannabisin amounts approximately equivalent to what people smoke on average.
Initially, the researchers observed the eating habits of rats and mice, finding that the animals sought food more regularly after being exposed to carbon dioxide vapor. Cannabis.
They then analyzed neural activity in the mice and discovered that Cannabis activated a small group of specific neurons in the mediobasal hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is known for regulating appetite, in addition to performing functions in other areas, such as body temperature and mood.
By activating these specific neurons, a sequence of neural signals linked to motivation and movement is triggered. In humans, it is this process that motivates us to get off the couch and look for cookies and sweets in the kitchen cupboards.
As the chemical components of Cannabis affect appetite
Researchers investigated how chemical compounds in Cannabis interact with brain activity related to appetite and eating.
A Cannabis releases chemicals known as cannabinoids: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC and CBD activate neurons in the hypothalamus that have a protein called cannabinoid receptor-1 (CB1). This receptor is known to increase appetite and stimulate eating.
However, the new research found that as soon as the rats in their study saw food, the hypothalamus activated significantly more cells containing the CB1 receptor.
They tested this by deactivating the relevant neurons in some mice and observed that the Cannabis stimulated appetite significantly less.
Medicinal use of marijuana to increase appetite
Scientists have studied the appetite-stimulating properties of Cannabis some time ago. The expectation is to use the Cannabis medicinal to help stimulate the desire to eat in people undergoing chemotherapy treatment or who are experiencing anorexia.
Synthetic medicines have been developed to mimic the effect of Cannabis. However, in some studies — such as those focused on treating anorexia — the medications did not work reliably.
Michelle Sexton, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, in the United States, believes that this may have occurred due to oral administration of the drugs, which may not be as effective as smoking. Cannabis. However, Sexton told DW in an email that “the evidence on the effects of Cannabis vaporized on appetite are little studied.”
Abrams told DW that for 40 years he has suggested using Cannabis to his cancer patients, although he is not allowed to prescribe it.
“A Cannabis It is the only anti-nausea treatment that also stimulates the appetite. Additionally, it is effective in dealing with pain, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. So it’s something I often recommend for people living with and beyond cancer,” he points out.