Cannabis drug could help fight obesity

Apparently scientists have discovered that a natural component of cannabis suppresses the appetite and that discovery may lead to a new class of drugs for treating obesity.

Scientist professor Roger Pertwee, a neuropharmacologist at Aberdeen University, says it was already well known that cannabis stimulated the appetite, but not widely known that the plant also contained substances that produced the opposite effect.

That substance is apparently called THCV and is chemically similar to another cannabis chemical, or cannabinoid, called THC that stimulates the appetite.

As drugs based on THC are already being used to increase the appetite of AIDS patients, the focus is now on developing THCV for use as an anti-obesity drug, said Professor Pertwee.

Pertwee says that cannabis is rich in substances that can mimic the natural or endogenous cannabinoids in the brain, that act as chemical messengers in the nervous pathways, involved in such activities as appetite control or pain relief.

These endogenous cannabinoids seem to act on the reward pathways to the brain, to increase the reward you get when you take food, but can have harmful effects.

By increasing appetite they can increase fat, which can give rise to obesity or overweight.

Drugs are apparently now being developed that can increase the levels of these chemicals in our brains by slowing down the rate at which they disappear once they have been released,says Pertwee.

Professor Pertwee has also found a method of potentially boosting the signals in the brain that are generated by these endogenous cannabinoids.

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