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Marijuana Munchies Explained By Science

02/10/2014 01:01 EST | Updated 02/10/2014 02:59 EST
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Ever been befuddled by a sudden, inexorable craving for all the Cool Ranch Doritos on Earth?

And a side of Twizzlers -- both ends bitten off and employed as straws in a keg of Coca-Cola?

Was it not long after hauling on a joint?

Classic munchies syndrome.

But up until now, pot smokers have been left with little explanation as to how their herb of choice sends them to the depth of a culinary cataclysm. Or, at least, their attention to the subject was rather fleeting -- with the question being entirely forgotten after a good gorge and a side of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Well, that's what science is for.

A new study published in Nature Neuroscience this week finally takes the time to sort it out for the rest of us.

Experimenting on mice, a team of European neuroscientists led by Giovanni Marsicano of the University of Bordeaux, isolated the active ingredient in cannabis -- tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

They proceeded to unlock the secret of why it makes us want to gorge .

They found that THC fits like a key into the brain's olfactory bulb -- the sensory mastermind that controls how we perceive odours.

By amping up a mouse's ability to smell food, the study subject's demonstrated an increased appreciation for it. i.e. They gorged because they could smell and taste food more accurately.

Joseph Stromberg at Smithsonian.com explains a little more fully:

'Likely produced by the marijuana plant as a self-defense against herbivores who might feel disorientated after eating the plant and avoid it in the future, THC fits into receptors that are part of the brain's natural endocannabinoid system, which helps to control emotions, memory, pain sensitivity and appetite. Our brains typically produce their own chemicals (called cannabinoids) that fit into these same receptors, so by mimicking their activity, THC can artificially alter the same factors in dramatic ways.'

Amplified senses, the study suggests, make for an amplified appetite.

(And a potentially amplified waistline.)

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