“It’s like pressing a car’s brakes and accelerating instead,” said Tamas Horvath, lead author of a 2015 rodent study published in Nature, during a press release (via PBS). The research paper explains that natural cannabinoid receptors in our brain help keep our food intake in check. A specific group of neurons, known as POMC neurons, tells us when we’ve had enough. Knowing this, the researchers theorized that weed must suppress POMC neural activity, which would dampen its messaging of “Hey, you’re full!” and subsequently lead us to eat more.
Much to their surprise, when cannabinoids were introduced into the bloodstream of mice, the researchers saw that the firing of POMC neurons actually increased (via NPR). Not only that, but the drug also altered the neurons’ chemical messaging from one of satiation to a message of hunger. What trickery! GoodRx Health further notes that another reason marijuana makes our mouth water is because cannabinoids can make food taste even more delicious. When binding to the receptors on our tongue, cannabinoids kick our brain’s response to sweet treats up a notch, boosting our cravings for fatty foods.