New research uncovers why marijuana stimulates appetite

In Research Topics, Top Stories by David Silverberg

If you ever wanted to know exactly why marijuana users get the “munchies” new research from France offers some answers.

A new study published recently in Nature Neuroscience reports marijuana stimulates appetite because the plant’s properties allow users to smell and taste food more acutely.

The research team from the University of Bordeaux has found that, in mice, THC is placed into receptors in the brain’s olfactory bulb, causing a major increase the animals’ ability to smell food and leading them to eat more of it.

As the study’s abstract explains: “Endocannabinoids and exogenous cannabinoids increased odor detection and food intake in fasted mice by decreasing excitatory drive from olfactory cortex areas to the main olfactory bulb.”

The Smithsonian adds: “Most intriguing, the genetically engineered mice with olfactory lobes that lacked cannabinoid receptors did not show increased scent sensitivity or appetite even when they were starved.”

Other research discovered that marijuana works on receptors in a region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, boosting the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine—and the sensation of pleasure—that comes as a result of eating while ingesting or smoking cannabis.