Why Can't We Can't Stop Snacking? Maybe Because of Pot-Like Chemicals

By Joseph Castro | July 5, 2011 2:55 pm

spacing is important

Have you ever eaten a single potato chip or French fry that sent you spiraling into nearly uncontrollable gluttony? Scientists are now saying that these sober binges are actually quite similar to pot smokers’ notorious bouts of the munchies: fatty foods cause your body to release marijuana-like chemicals called endocannabinoids, and this likely compels you to continue stuffing your face.

In a study to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Daniele Piomelli and his colleagues at UC Irvine investigated the connection between fat intake in rats and their production of endocannabinoids, natural compounds similar to THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana. They allowed the rats to sip on several types of drinks, including ones high in sugar, protein, or fat, and monitored the rats’ endocannabinoid levels.

The researchers learned that the high-fat drinks sparked the release of endocannabinoids, but the sugar and protein beverages did not. When a rat tasted a fatty drink, signals traveled from the rat’s tongue to its brain. The vagus nerve bundle in the brain then routed the message to produce endocannabinoids down to the rat’s gut. The researchers believe that here intestinal endocannabinoids triggered the release of other chemicals, all screaming a single word: EAT!

The researchers suggest that it may be possible to create drugs to block endocannabinoid signaling in the brain, and this could help people curb some of their gluttonous behaviors. Though, it’s probably easier to just keep away from the snack isle at the grocery store.

But would such a drug be the end of Lay’s “betcha can’t eat just one” slogan? Probably not. Really, have you tried the tomato and basil-flavored chips?

(via UC Irvine)

Image: Flickr/soleiletoile ©

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food
  • Thomas J. Haslam

    The alleged research benefit is ludicrous: “researchers suggest that it may be possible to create drugs to block endocannabinoid signaling in the brain.” That signalling evolved in mammals because in most environments fat equals good food. Fats from natural food sources — emphasis on natural — still do generally do indicate good food.

    Snack food is another matter entirely, as David Kessler, MD, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, explains in his book The End of Overeating. Such junk food is specifically designed — emphasis on design — to exploit and manipulate the “eat more” signal. The problem is not — I repeat NOT — with the signal. One which has served 7 millions years of hominin evolution well, and millions more years of mammalian evolution. We don’t need a drug to block “endocannabinoid signaling in the brain.” We need to stop eating crap foods, and to stop subsidizing with our taxpayer dollars the production, consumption, resulting ill-health consequences of such food.

    Why — I ask — why is every piece of research concerning the human body immediately understood as an opportunity for Big Pharma to make even more money selling evermore dubious solutions to problems with known answers? Please in future declare your biases, and don’t report such potential benefits under the guise of science.

    Thank you.

  • Farron

    I completely agree with Thomas J. Haslam on this subject, but would even go a step further. Regardless of whether science finds supposid chemical reasons for addictions it has been proven time and time again that it is simply a choice. I have had alot of experience with the underground style of life and have seen some amazing recoveries in my time and I will tell you here and now it had nothing to do with any external help from Big Daddy Gov. or the Heath Industry which is nothing more than a group of people with a licence to peddle Drugs!!!! No matter how you slice it addictions are nothing more than a choice, you choice to get informed before trying something so that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into and that goes for food aswell as drugs both prescribed or other wise. It is time we stopped having Poppa Gov, or Mamma Health come wipe our preverbial ass for us and gaurd us from the big bad world and start accepting responsability for our actions and stop being a bunch of sheeple slaves beleiveing every thing you’ve been taught and not using your own abillity to see, hear, touch, smell and taste for yourself. This world sleeping and needs a sharp needle in the ass, wake up people

  • Solitha

    “you[sic] choice to get informed before trying something so that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into”

    All right, guess I’ll quit eating until I know every last thing there is to know about what that food may do to me.

    The fact that the research may not be available until after I starve is irrelevant, because if I try something and get addicted to it, it was obviously my choice to make to not be fully informed.

    Drat, I’m way late making my choices… I should have refused those fatty snacks my parents gave me when I was a kid.

    Come down off the high horse for a bit and understand that just because YOU can avoid these things, that doesn’t mean everyone could or can, nor that we know everything we should know about how what we intake can affect us.

  • Evdpl

    I suppose ignorance is a choice for the first two posters. Why not choose an educated view based off of evidence and not paranoia?

  • AshanaLovesDiscover

    I agree with Solitha wholeheartedly. Farron is being overly judgemental and needs to become better informed about obesity before he states an opinion on the subject. Thomas may have a point about the junk food companies exploiting our eating signals. They make more money if people eat more junk food. They likely don’t care if their food harms their customers any more than the cigarette companies care about their customers. And drug companies can benefit financially from these signals, too. However, it’s not as easy as he and Farron suggest to avoid these foods. Sometimes so-called “healthy” food isn’t that good for you and many times the body can aggressively sabotage a person’s good intentions to eat well. Check out the June 2011 article “The Hungry Brain,” it has a lot of great information about obesity and the obstacles to losing weight or keeping it off. If those who are judgemental toward obese people take the time to read that article and try to learn more about the subject with an open mind, they would likely change their minds and give obese people a break.

  • Cassandra

    What about the opioid peptides in wheat? Food addiction articles never seem to talk about those.

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