What are the munchies?
What are the munchies? We’ve all gotten incredibly hungry after consuming cannabis, and these cravings are usually for fast food, sweet food, pizza… essentially, food that isn’t that good for us. Some people are more likely to feel the “munchies” than others, although any regular cannabis consumers have definitely experienced it more than once.
The word munchies clearly comes from the verb to munch, which we all know means to chew something while making noise. The munchies are just one of the multiple side effects that cannabis can produce, as well as pain-relief and stimulating effects. It’s essentially a simple increase in appetite that occurs when you consume cannabis. Cannabis has been consumed for hundreds of years, although it’s only been during the last 20-30 years when we’ve started actually studying it and finding out incredibly interesting information about this amazing plant.
The amount of studies done on the effect that cannabis had on the brain is growing on a daily basis. A couple of years ago, students at Yale Medical School investigated the munchies and how they occur. This study is the first ever done that confirms the existence of the “munchies” on a scientific level. These types of studies can then be used to treat cancer patients or patients with other illnesses that cause issues such as loss of appetite. Pharmaceutical companies are also quite interested in this phenomenon when it comes to weight loss treatment; if we can figure out how to induce hunger, we can probably figure out how to suppress it too.
What are the munchies and how do they work?
The munchies are a side effect of consuming cannabis, and often present themselves as an increase in appetite and an intense craving for junk food. After quite a thorough study, the students at Yale analyzed and investigated how cannabinoids, mainly THC, affect the part of the brain that controls hunger. As well as affecting that specific part of the brain, THC also increases the senses, specifically speaking smell and taste. So, how does THC manage to cause such hunger?
Every person has a set of neurons in their brain called pro-opiomelanocortins (POMC) which are in charge of telling you when you’ve eaten enough to be full, and they’re also closely related to sexual stimulation. Without cannabinoids in your system, these neurons work perfectly fine, but once our cannabinoid receptors (CB1) have been stimulated, POMC neurons are altered.
Scientists at Yale gave cannabinoids to a series of mice and found that their POMC neurons were actually stimulated, although instead acting as they usually would, they did a 180 – instead of telling the rats to stop eating, the POMC neurons were telling them that they were still hungry. This is what happens in your brain when you consume cannabis, and it’s believed that the cannabinoid that stimulates this process the most is THC.
As well as increasing and altering POMC activity, it turns out the our CB1 receptors also interact with neurons in charge of our sense of smell, which increases quite a lot when we consume cannabis. It had already been proven that an increase in sense of smell can also increase appetite and make food taste much better. This means that you’ll definitely be more likely to feel like chowing down after smoking a bowl.
As you’ve probably gathered at this stage, our CB1 receptors interact with a whole host of neurons in our brain, and they are part of our brain’s very own endo-cannabinoid system. This system interacts with others such as hunger, memory, mood, metabolism and an incredibly long list of other process.
Another sense that’s affected by cannabinoids is our sense of taste, which is also involved in CB1 receptor stimulation. When under the effects of cannabinoids, our sense of taste is incredibly increased, making every flavor much more intense. Cannabinoids also increase the amount of dopamine in our brains, and so does eating something that tastes good. This is why consuming cannabis before eating delicious food can cause quite a spike in dopamine levels, increasing happiness however temporarily.
Munchies: other effects
Obviously, eating too much can give you a tummy ache, especially if you’re eating junk food. If you’re a regular cannabis consumer you might be worried about gaining weight – you definitely enjoy food more after consuming cannabis, although you need to have a varied diet and do some exercise now and then to make up for the difference. A great alternative to sweets and junk food is fruit; it has a plenty of natural sugar and tastes delicious when stoned.
Recent studies have shown that regular cannabis consumers actually tend to have less body fat than those that don’t consume marihuana – it is believed that some cannabinoids are capable of regulating insulin and weight loss, although much more investigation is needed as this is just a theory for now.
Another interesting study done in February of this year (2019) courtesy of Michele Baggio at the University of Connecticut states that, due to cannabis legalization in the States, junk food sales and have increased quite a bit. She compiled information from stores over a 10 year period, and proved that the legalization of cannabis increased the amount of profit obtained from junk food and fast food sales considerably.