Munchies Explained: Why Does Food Taste Better?

This article was originally published on Weedmaps and appears here with permission.

Have you ever experienced severe hunger pangs after consuming cannabis? You know what I mean — that overwhelming desire to reach for every bite in your cupboard or put together a peanut butter and pickle sandwich without thinking twice. That all-too-common phenomenon is called “the munchies.”

One of the best aspects of smoking weed is the immense satisfaction that a simple bag of chips can bring. But did you know that there is a scientific reasoning behind why food tastes so much better?

Here we examine the scientific and anecdotal evidence surrounding the munchies.

Why does cannabis make food so delicious?

Not only has science confirmed the existence of the munchies, but anecdotal evidence supports this experience as long as cannabis is consumed. And cannabis has been widely accepted by researchers as an appetite stimulant, but science has only recently discovered why.

Food can taste better when you’re high for several reasons.

THC stimulates euphoria

One of the main reasons food tastes high is because of your body’s unique endocannabinoid system (ECS), which allows you to feel a joyful, mind-altering “high” when consuming THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. CB1 receptors in the brain are responsible for the munchies.

THC usually has an effect on the brain by stimulating the ‘feel good’ chemical dopamine, leading to feelings of perception-altering euphoria and exaggerated pleasure, while simultaneously reducing inhibitions. Long-term anecdotal evidence suggests that these feelings certainly apply to the feeling of eating when you’re high. Anyone who has ever smoked a joint and then went to town with a pint of ice cream (no judgment) can attest to this.

Weed boosts hunger

Throughout history, people have reported that smoking weed stimulates their appetite. In fact, at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, a hospital volunteer known as Brownie Mary handed out cannabis-infused brownies to patients.

Mary reportedly baked up to 600 infused brownies a day in the early 1980s, allowing patients to successfully eat and keep in foods they otherwise couldn’t. Fortunately, the effect of cannabis on hunger is not only pleasurable, but also has important therapeutic implications.

THC may play a role in the production of the hormone ghrelin, which acts on appetite centers in the brain to stimulate hunger. And the hungrier we feel, the more satisfying we get from eating. This means that eating high can be more satisfying than usual.

THC makes food smell and taste better

A 2014 study led by Giovanni Marsicano of the Université De Bordeaux found that cannabis can actually make food smell and taste better. The team of neuroscientists who conducted the study found that interacting with our CB1 receptors improves the sense of smell. Because human taste and smell are closely related, an increased sense of smell increases the satisfying and flavorful taste of food, ultimately promoting food intake.

Scientists observed mice in the presence of almond and banana oil to test their hypothesis. According to the study, “mice exposed to THC did not get used to as quickly and spent much more time sniffing the oils.” In addition, it was observed that the mice exposed to THC ate more than those that were not. the time odor detection is increased and sensitized, chances are you will not only eat more, but enjoy the flavors, aromas and textures of your food more attentively.

THC may not help you eat more vegetables

So why do we tend to reach for the sugary snacks when we’re high? Another study published in the journal Neuropharmacology adds further support to the science behind the munchies. Interestingly, THC increases the pleasure we feel when we eat delicious, high-calorie, sugary foods, but has little effect on foods we already dislike, according to a group of scientists at the University of Cagliari in Italy.

In other words, smoking a joint is unlikely to make you enjoy eating those veggies you already hate.

Sure, smoking weed can inspire you to make a stir-fry from anything in your kitchen. But often, stoners can just hit the snack aisle — and they certainly do. A study examined data in thousands of US counties and found causal evidence that legalization for adult use may be linked to an increase in the sale of junk foods, including ice cream, cookies and chips.

What it comes down to:

Anyone who has ever consumed cannabis and suffered from the munchies knows what’s going on – food can become a high of its own. Now that you know why, go ahead and enjoy that ice cream, bag of chips, or even PB&P with a scientific sense of why that food tastes so good high.

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