Image from ExploringNature.org Substances similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, are produced naturally in our brains. They are called endocannabinoids and are part of the body's endocannibinoid system, which include sweet taste receptors on the tongue. This might help explain the relationship between smoking a joint and eating a pound of chocolate.
The discovery of the sweet effects of natural endocannibinoids were revealed in a study conducted at the Monell Center in Philadelphia and Kyushu University in Japan. The Monell Center is an independent research institute focused on research in taste and smell.
Several experiments with mice were undertaken to determine the behavioral, neural, and cellular response to sweet taste stimuli before and after the administration of endocannibinoids. Researchers found that only the sweet taste receptors responded in every case; there was no enhancement of other taste cells.
When further experiments were conducted with "knockout" mice - - those whose cannibinoid receptors were engineered out, there was no effect as a result of introducing endocannibinoids.
Image from the Monell Center "Modulation of sweet taste responses may be an important component of
the endocannibinoid system's role in regulating feeding behavior," said
Robert Margolskee, a Monell molecular biologist. He also noted that the well-known "marijuana
munchies" may depend at least in part on endocannibinoid stimulation of
tongue taste cells.
There are also sweet taste receptors in the intestine and pancreas. It is theorized that they may have a role in controlling obesity and diabetes, because they help to regulate nutrient absorption, insulin secretion, and energy metabolism. If further research determines that they too are stimulated by the modulation of endocannibinoids, new therapies to combat obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases could be forthcoming.
Monell Chemical Senses Center