Sweeping the pantry is a side effect of marijuana use well known to all its users. But why do they give us such fits of hunger? A study with mice from the University of Bordeaux has revealed how THC works in the olfactory part of the brain, generating an increase in appetite and taste. The key, therefore, is in smell, a finding that could be very useful to develop treatments that better address eating-related disorders, such as obesity and anorexia.
The endocannabinoid system
But to correctly understand the study carried out by Marsicano, one must first understand how the endocannabinoid system of the human body works. Cannabinoids in marijuana, such as CBD or THC, go to endocannabinoid receptors that are found throughout our body and that, depending on their location, have a different action on the body. Some receptors are found in the brain, others in the glands, and others in immune cells; together, they form a communication system between the brain and the human body.
When we notice the different effects of high, relaxation, psychedelia … of cannabis, its chemical compounds are interacting with our endocannabinoid communication system, changing the functioning of our body. Scientists have determined that in the human body, there are two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, and the most important ones are those located in the brain.
Professor Marsicano, knowing that THC binds to cannabinoid CB1 receptors in the brain, has investigated how the psychoactive compound works in the hunger-related communication system. Indeed, this union inhibits the chemical signals that tell us not to eat, thus causing a sudden outburst of appetite. But the study has revealed that smell is also altered in this process of cannabinoid binding, stimulating people their ability to perceive aromas and making food much more attractive.
Cannabis treatments for eating disorders
As we explained before, the brain and body are full of cannabinoid receptors, so a research work as precise as that of the Marsicano team has great relevance in identifying cells and communications that may be crucial for medicine. Their findings in mice open the door in humans to different ways of treating eating disorders, modifying the link between smell and appetite.