NOV 23, 2018 12:50 PM PST

Our Endocannabinoid System and Appetite

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

The Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect time to get together with relatives you have not seen in a year to discuss family, football, and...science. Particularly, the science of appetite. While the old wives' tale of the tryptophan in turkey responsible for making you sleepy (it is not, sleepiness is most likely due to the fact that you just ate a very large meal), there actually are several biological methods the body employs to make you feel hungry or full. One of these mechanisms is our own endocannabinoid system (ECS), that is, the system of chemicals, receptors, and enzymes that run throughout our body (not just the brain) that just so happens to react to the phytocannabinoids within marijuana.

Photo Source: pixabay.com

Perhaps the best indication that our ECS is involved in regulating appetite is the "munchies" associated with smoking marijuana. This newsletter previously described the science behind why weed gives you the "munchies". But when an exogenous (made outside of the body) pharmacological substance has that type of effect on a basic physiological process (e.g. appetite regulation) it points to the fact that some endogenous (made by the body) system, one which can be manipulated by marijuana, exists to regulate appetite. In this case, that would be our very own ECS.

Some of the most convincing evidence for a role of the ECS in appetite regulation comes from a series of animal studies by Dr. Kent Berridge and colleagues out of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Their group showed that if you intracranially administered anandamide, an endocannabinoid produced in our body, directly in the brain's reward system, rats increases their intake of sweet and fatty foods. This indicates that the ECS, or at least anandamide, not only increases appetite but does so for foods that are palatable (in other words, tasty). Other evidence that our ECS is involved in appetite comes from human studies. After eating a palatable (i.e. tasty) meal, circulating levels of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol (2-AG) increased in healthy subjects. Another human study showed increases in circulating anandamide right before initiating a meal.

Photo Source: unsplash.com

How about the role in the ECS in the cessation of eating? The increase in 2-AG levels after eating a meal may be due to satiety. 2-AG can activate both endocannabinoid receptor types (CB1 and CB2). CB2 activation has been found to have anti-obesity effects. Research into the role of the ECS in satiation is still very new, and the ECS's role in appetite and energy homeostasis is complex, to say the least. However, when enjoying your Thanksgiving meal (or leftovers) give a consideration to your ECS. It may be the reason why you choose that extra slice of pumpkin pie.

Sources: WebMD.comLabRoots.com, Neuropsychopharmacology, Drugs, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, International Journal of Obesity, PLoS One

About the Author
  • I currently work at a small CRO involved in clinical trial management.
You May Also Like
JUN 15, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Prenatal Cannabis Exposure Does Not Cause Brain Damage in Children
JUN 15, 2020
Prenatal Cannabis Exposure Does Not Cause Brain Damage in Children
Parents and their children often face separation and other punishments due to the idea that prenatal cannabis exposure c ...
JUL 02, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
What is the Difference Between CBD and CBG?
JUL 02, 2020
What is the Difference Between CBD and CBG?
Like cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG) is a cannabinoid. Both compounds are found in cannabis plants. Both are also ...
AUG 04, 2020
Neuroscience
What happens in the Brain in Cannabis Cravers?
AUG 04, 2020
What happens in the Brain in Cannabis Cravers?
Marijuana is sometimes used to help people wean themselves off other drugs addictions, such as to opioids, but can also ...
AUG 22, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
People with Depression Twice as Likely to Use Cannabis
AUG 22, 2020
People with Depression Twice as Likely to Use Cannabis
Researchers from Columbia University have found that people with depression are around twice as likely to use cannabis t ...
SEP 20, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Can Cannabis be Used to Treat Autism?
SEP 20, 2020
Can Cannabis be Used to Treat Autism?
Currently, the consensus on whether cannabis may be used to treat autism is mixed. While some papers show signs of its p ...
SEP 27, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
THC Shows Promise in Treating Severe Cases of COVID-19
SEP 27, 2020
THC Shows Promise in Treating Severe Cases of COVID-19
Over the last few months, various headlines have emerged suggesting the potential for cannabinoids, and in particular, c ...
Loading Comments...