While the anecdotal evidence has always been plentiful regarding cannabis’ impact as an appetite stimulant (…often referred to as the “munchies”) only recently have we seen clinical studies that have been able to explain this phenomenon. Several studies have revealed that the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, is particularly effective at stimulating appetite and weight gain. Another 2005 study conducted in New York state revealed that medical cannabis produced substantial increases in appetite without producing adverse effects. The same study also noted that participants displayed a positive shift in mood.
Most notably, a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers, titled “Neuroscience: A cellular basis for the munchies,” was published in the February 18th issue of the journal Nature. The research is part of a larger effort to understand how the brain controls a person’s appetite.
The cause of the appetite stimulation resides within the same neurons that are known to produce the feeling of being full, which under normal circumstances effectively suppress the appetite. Under normal circumstances, the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) fire and it causes the body to produce a hormone call a-melanocyte (a-MSH). The a-MSH then signals the body to stop eating by sending the feeling of being full.
When cannabinoids are introduced to the body, it causes the POMC to work backwards. Instead of signaling the a-MSH to produce feelings of fullness, the POMC send signals of hunger that result in an increased appetite.
This new discovery has the ability to open doors to a whole new world of appetite stimulation for patients suffering from conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS and other patients who’s traditional treatment regimen results in a loss of appetite or difficulty eating.