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Marijuana Munchies Explained by Science

quiz, pizza, munchies, food
Photo by Getty Images

Scientific studies are beginning to successfully unravel the mystery of why we get the munchies—THC stimulates appetite by regulating a group of neurons that normally suppress the appetite—even when we’re definitely not hungry.

Hence, the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of patients dealing with a loss of appetite due to complications with chemotherapy, cancer or HIV, to name a few.

Herein lies one of the pot paradoxes—weed smokers generally have a lower body mass index (BMI) and are less at risk for diabetes.

And we should try and keep it that way, so choose your munchies well.

Studies concluded that weed helps improve insulin control and regulates body weight, which explains why stoners don’t become obese from all that snacking.

THC acts as a hunger stimulant, however, when it wears off, the “stop eating” chemicals are still hanging out in your brain and their messaging goes back to normal.

“So you can have a rebound of not eating for a long period of time after you have the munchies,” explained Dr. Tamas Horvath, professor of neurobiology and comparative medicine at Yale University, who has undertaken a number of studies on munchies and cancer patients.

In other words, after an initial bout of the munchies, there is a tendency to go a long time without eating, which keeps the weight under control.

In fact, Horvath said there is no association between marijuana use and obesity in any of the existing scientific literature.

So, can someone please explain why we don’t crave carrots or spinach salad when we’re stoned?

Now that scientists understand why the munchies occur and why they’re not going to turn us into butterballs, isn’t possible to guide our urges toward healthy food instead of the stereotypical snacks like chips, cookies or pizza?

The short answer: no.

“It makes no sense, evolutionarily,” said Horvath, who explained that our brains are hardwired to crave high-calorie food when we’re hungry.

This is thought to be an evolutionary response left over from a time when humans were constantly searching for their next meal.

“Food-scarcity was the driver. So if you have the ability to shove in and store as much food as you can, that assures your next meal—it doesn’t matter as much when it comes,” said Horvath.

As it turns out, at least for now, even science still can’t make stoners eat their veggies. But we should still try.

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