According to a survey1 by the Public Health Agency of Canada, one and a half percent of Canadian women 15–24 years old report suffering from an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

People affected by anorexia are generally described as those who are more than 15% below normal body weight who have an unrealistic perception of their body shape and weight. Eating disorders are not only the most common form of psychological illness, but also result in the highest mortality rate (estimated at 5% to 20%).

The pervasiveness and life-threatening aspects of eating disorders has led some researchers to investigate what role the endogenous endocannabinoid system—which has been shown to control the amount of pleasure we derive from sensory experiences such as eating—may have in regulating brain activity related to eating.2 Additionally, supporting data3 has indicated that deficiencies in endocannabinoid function may be a contributing factor in eating disorders.

Increased appetite (the “munchies”) is a commonly reported side-effect of consuming cannabis, and patients report its efficacy in reducing nausea and vomiting. This has led to investigation4 of a THC surrogate—Dronabinol—in the treatment of eating disorders, as well as study of cannabis in the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with oncological treatment (sponsored by Tilray, taking place in New South Wales, Australia.)

How remarkable to see a side effect like “the munchies” potentially play a role in improving the lives of critically and chronically ill patients in Canada and around the world!

For more:

1. The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada 2006

2. MK-9470, a (PET) tracer for in vivo human PEET brain imaging of the cannabinoid-1 receptor

4. Do Deficits in Brain Cannabinoids Contribute to Eating Disorders?

3. Dronabinol in server, enduring anorexia nervosa: A randomized controlled trial