This article was originally published on Herb.co
By Anna Wilcox
Cannabis and eating go together like peas and carrots. But, what give the two activities their special relationship? These five fascinating facts about cannabis and food explain everything.
1. Munchies are hormonal
We all know that cannabis can make you hungry. But, how? THC kickstarts your metabolism and makes you hungry by triggering the release of various hunger hormones. Two hormones in particular really get your digestive juices flowing: ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin is so essential to appetite stimulation that it’s nicknamed “the hunger hormone”. This hormone is released when your body wants to tell you that it needs more food. Ghrelin sends a signal from your gut to your brain, letting you know that it’s time to eat.
Leptin does the opposite. Leptin is an appetite suppressor, and it tells your body when you’re full. It’s what produces the “satisfied” sensation after a great meal.
In a 2012 pilot study, researchers found that THC increased the amount of both ghrelin and leptin in men with HIV. This means that cannabis stimulated appetite while also amping up feelings of food satisfaction. If you’re having trouble eating, cannabis stimulates the body’s natural digestive response.
2. THC makes food smell amazing
There’s just something about cannabis that makes food taste extraordinary. Pizza has never smelled so mouthwatering. Unexpected flavor combinations are sudden culinary winners. Browse through a near-empty pantry and all of a sudden dry cereal and orange juice seem utterly delightful.
Turns out, cannabis really does make food smell and taste better. Back in 2014, Spanish researchers found that THC stimulates the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb is the part of your brain that recognizes smells. To discover this, the researchers gave mice a little THC and measured their cannabinoid receptor activation. The rodents’ olfactory bulbs lit up. This increased their food-seeking behavior.
Basically, the mouse chow smelled so good that the mice were better able to find it and have a little feast.
3. Cannabis makes eating more pleasurable
If there’s one activity that is consistently rewarding with cannabis, it’s eating. Flavors melt in your mouth. The sensation of chewing just down right feels good. Every bite you take is like diving into a little bit of heaven. A little herb before a nice meal inspires a true When Harry Met Sally moment.
There is a reason for this. THC stimulates dopamine. Dopamine is like a little reward for your brain every time you do something enjoyable. It’s the neurotransmitter that allows us to experience pleasure. When you eat foods that you really enjoy, dopamine increases. Your brain and your body shout: “This is great! Keep eating! We love this!”.
Add a little THC to the mix and this whole process is amplified. A 2013 study found that the psychoactive’s dopamine boost is linked to the improved taste of food. So, with every delicious bite you take, your body responds by giving you more dopamine as a reward. This makes you absolutely love the experience of eating. THC amplifies your pleasure from food.
4. THC may help metabolize carbs
Cannabis-lovers face a lot of flack for their food enthusiasm. But, it looks like the herb can actually help youbetter break down all of the food that you eat. A survey of over 4,600 adults found that cannabis users had lower fasting insulin levels than non-users.
How could this possibly be? At least one study has found that herb users tend to eat more calories than their non-using counterparts. Well, consuming the plant may help your body better break down carbohydrates. Leady study author Murray Mittleman told Time:
“The most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers. Their fasting insulin levels were lower, and they appeared to be less resistant to the insulin produced by their body to maintain a normal blood-sugar level.”
5. CBD suppresses appetite
While THC sends your stomach a-rumblin’, CBD does the opposite. CBD is one of the most common compounds found in the cannabis plant and is non-psychoactive. Though THC boosts your metabolism and inspires a chow down, CBD is a mild appetite suppressant. It won’t cause you to stop eating altogether, but it might help you feel full sooner.
Using rodent models, British researchers compared the eating habits of mice when they were given various cannabis compounds. Mice that were given appetite-stimulating cannabinol (CBN) kept eating. But, mice given CBD consumed less chow during the same feeding period.
So, there you have it. Cannabis makes your food taste better, smell better, and makes you love the experience of eating. All the while, it may help you better metabolize carbs or help you eat less overall depending on your herb preference. Overall, combining cannabis and food is really a win-win for everyone.
What’s your favorite cannabis-inspired dish? Share your thoughts with us on social media or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!