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Binge Eating May Be a High All Its Own
Date:7/6/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- The next time you indulge in a juicy steak or a hot fudge sundae, consider this: The high you get from eating all that fat may be related to the one you might feel if you smoked marijuana.

The same mechanism that gives pot smokers the "munchies" -- that is, a nearly irresistible desire to eat -- appears to help explain why people like fat so much, according to a new study involving rats.

The research offers insight into how your body forces you to eat and could eventually help lead toward treatments designed to calm food cravings, said study co-author Daniele Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) School of Medicine.

"When we reach into a refrigerator, and we take that pint of ice cream, there [are] a lot more things happening than we think, and a lot deeper," Piomelli said. "Unraveling them over time can be helpful."

At issue in the study are chemicals in the brain known as endocannabinoids, which scientists think are crucial to regulating things such as mood, anxiety and appetite, explained Piomelli, director of the UCI Center for Drug Discovery & Development. Fat appears to activate the chemicals, as does marijuana.

It makes sense that appetite and pot-smoking would be connected, Piomelli added. After all, besides helping people relax and feel less anxious in many cases, marijuana can trigger the "munchies" -- a desire to consume food, especially junk food.

In the new study, Piomelli and colleagues from Yeshiva University in New York sought to determine how food affects the endocannabinoid system and which particular aspects of food set it off.

The researchers came up with an experiment. They fed the rats different kinds of liquid solutions -- with fat, sugar or protein dissolved in them -- and monitored what happened. And since they didn't want to keep track
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