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CBD does not cause munchies, say experts

By The Washington Post Time of article published Jan 15, 2019

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As a dietician, I always receive an influx of New Year’s emails predicting food trends. This year, experts have forecast an increase in food and drink containing cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis. Called CBD, cannabidiol has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat some forms of epilepsy and shows potential in treating pain, nausea, anxiety and depression - without making users high.

But what about its effect on hunger? After all, smoking or ingesting cannabis is associated with the munchies. Does CBD have the same effect? Could a trend towards CBD-infused foods lead to weight gain? I consulted some experts.

To understand their answers to these questions, first, a quick tutorial. Cannabis plants contain more than 100 cannabinoids, although the therapeutic and psychoactive effects of most of them aren’t yet known. The two most-researched cannabinoids are CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the main psychoactive cannabinoid. THC makes you high; CBD doesn’t.

THC produces cravings for sweet and fatty foods through several mechanisms, according to the experts I consulted. First, “THC increases the hormone ghrelin, which causes you to feel hungry,” says Janice Newell Bissex, a dietitian and holistic cannabis practitioner in Massachusetts. If your stomach is empty, she says, you produce more ghrelin, which tells the brain to generate the sensation of hunger. But THC can increase ghrelin and trigger the feeling of hunger even if your stomach isn’t empty.

Second, THC hits a part of the brain that controls hunger. “The appetite-promoting effect of THC is mediated by CB1 (cannabinoid receptor type 1) receptors located in areas of the brain involved in appetite control,” explains George Kunos, scientific director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

And, third, THC boosts dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical in the brain, “so you get more pleasure from eating”, Bissex says.

CBD, by contrast, does not cause the munchies, the experts said. But it may boost appetite in a different way if it’s added to foods and beverages or taken as a medication. “CBD helps relieve nausea and can calm your nervous system and digestive tract,” Bissex says. “If you feel less nauseated, you may eat more. CBD also quells pain, and feeling less pain may also boost appetite.”

If THC increases appetite, does that mean recreational cannabis users will weigh more than non-users because they want to keep eating?

Overall, cannabis use in the general population is actually associated with a lower body mass index. “Interestingly, cannabis may help increase weight in those who are low weight, but not in those who are normal or overweight,” says Bissex. The reason has not been definitively established, but may involve the amount of THC that someone is exposed to, says Kunos. High doses of THC can suppress the number of CB1 receptors so that fewer receptors are stimulated, which could limit weight gain.

So, are the food trends experts on to something? Will CBD be on the menu at restaurants and on store shelves where you buy groceries? That will depend on where you live. If you live in Oregon, California, New York or Colorado, you may very well be ordering CDB-infused beer, or buying CBD-enhanced sweets and pastries. You can rest assured that such products will not cause the munchies - but keep in mind that weight gain could result from consuming the beer, sweets and pastries themselves. The Washington Post

Rosenbloom, a registered dietitian, is president of Words to Eat By, a nutrition communications company

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