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Can Marijuana Make Food Taste Sweeter?

By on August 22, 2013
Studies show that chemicals in marijuana enhance our taste for sweets.

Studies show that chemicals in marijuana act on taste cells to enhance sweetness – It’s a well known fact that marijuana increases appetite. But besides the munchies, scientists believe there might be another reason why we love to eat after smoking up.

In 2010, a group of researchers from Japan discovered that chemicals in marijuana (cannabinoids) can actually enhance our taste for sweets. They showed that cannabinoids could do this by acting on taste receptor cells – cells that sit right below our taste buds and pass signals along to the brain.

sweet-taste-marijuana-1-08-22Interestingly, cannabinoids seem to only affect the sweet taste, while the other four tastes – salty, sour, bitter and umami (or savory) – remain unchanged.

Naturally, we experience sweetness from foods that contain sugar or sugar substitutes like aspartame. And the fact that cannabinoids are able to enhance our taste for these foods could play a major role in the body’s regulation of energy.

This is because cannabinoids are not only found in marijuana, but in the human body as well. Just like chemicals in marijuana, our body’s own cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) influence the activity of a wide variety of cells, including taste cells.

In fact, scientists think that endocannabinoids may act to balance out the action of another important taste regulator called leptin.

Leptin is a hormone that also changes our taste for sweets, but in the opposite way. Leptin has been studied extensively in eating disorders and obesity because of how important sugar is as an energy source.

A mouse with leptin deficiency (left)

A mouse with leptin deficiency (left)

However, beyond a possible role in regulating sugar intake, scientists don’t really know how marijuana’s effect on taste cells impacts our overall health.

Of course, many would assume that smoking too much pot could lead to obesity, but studies have actually shown the opposite. That is, heavy marijuana users tend to be skinnier on average.

So until studies come out proving otherwise, it looks like those who smoke pot can have their cake – and eat it too.

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