What Do Dieting & Smoking Weed Have In Common?

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05_IMG_1810_CROP_r_PhotoChristyKurtzPhotographed By Christy Kurtz.
Ever gone grocery shopping when you're super hungry? That's a dangerous business. You find your arms inexplicably reaching for everything from Nutella to salt-and-vinegar potato chips. Everything in the store sounds like just the very best idea ever. Really, the only thing that might be just a bit more irresponsible than shopping hungry is shopping stoned — and, if you've ever done that, you know it feels like the same thing. Turns out, they kinda are.

New research from the Université de Bourdeaux has found out some pretty interesting tidbits on exactly how your brain changes when you're hungry. The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, found that fasting (defined here as skipping one or more meals) activates the same brain receptors that smoking weed does, specifically, the olfactory bulbs, or the part of the brain that controls your sense of smell.

Research has long shown that when you fast, your brain produces compounds known as endocannabinoids, which, as the name might suggest, have very similar effects to that of THC. However, this new finding — that the compulsive desire to eat after we've skipped a meal (or smoked a joint) is closely associated with our olfactory system — could have serious implications for the way we understand and treat obesity and eating disorders. Scientists have already attempted to harness this information in the form of anti-obesity medication, most recently with the drug Rimonanbant, which was used in Europe a few years ago until side effects pulled it off the market. In the meantime, though, it's at least slightly comforting to understand why we make the questionable decisions we make when we're in the habit of skipping a meal — or on a crazy diet. (NPR)