Science Is Stupid, And Getting High

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Ridue‘s Flickr photostream. This is not an endorsement for use of marijuana.

I’ve always known that scientists and the news media don’t get along so well, but this is a bit much.

A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes how fatty foods can increase your appetite:

UC Irvine researchers Daniele Piomelli, Nicholas DiPatrizio and colleagues found that fats in these foods make them nearly irresistible and trigger a surprising biological mechanism that likely drives our gluttonous behavior. The apparent culprit? Natural marijuana-like chemicals in the body called endocannabinoids.

In their study, the Piomelli team discovered that when rats tasted something fatty, cells in their upper gut started producing endocannabinoids.

Studying cannabinoids as a drug target for obesity has been a mainstay in the pharmaceutical industry for years. For example, in a study from 2005:

Endogenous cannabinoids acting at CB1 receptors stimulate appetite, and CB1 antagonists show promise in the treatment of obesity. CB1-/- mice are resistant to diet-induced obesity even though their caloric intake is similar to that of wild-type mice, suggesting that endocannabinoids also regulate fat metabolism.

Finding new treatments for obesity beyond miracle diets and gastric bypass surgery is desperately needed to improve public health as we face a veritable obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, in this example one writer at Gawker takes on the topic glibly – when the commentary below was read on a radio broadcast, the statement “This is why science is stupid” was met with a roar of laughter: {No, I do not regard Gawker as an authoritative source for science reporting.}

Scientists apparently hope to use this discovery to make drugs that could help prevent people from overeating. This is why science is stupid. Cool scientists would use their knowledge of endocannabinoids to amplify the effect of fatty foods on the brain, and create french fries that get you as high as quality marijuana. Hamburgers that makes television funnier! Ice cream that makes jam bands tolerable! The possibilities are endless!

(Apparently another way to activate endocannabinoids is to engage in “50 minutes of vigorous running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.” Which, ha, okay Jack LaLanne, that’s definitely how I want to get high.)

We have some work to do!

Comments

  1. #1 Moopheus
    July 12, 2011

    “Cool scientists would use their knowledge of endocannabinoids to amplify the effect of fatty foods on the brain, and create french fries that get you as high as quality marijuana”

    It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover that somewhere in a corporate food lab folks would try to use a finding like this to create foods that reinforce cravings as a way to sell more product. The FDA might have a word to say about psychoactive ice cream, but if there was a profit in it, you think Nestle or Kraft wouldn’t do it?

  2. #2 alan
    July 12, 2011

    We have work to do…what? – Start a war on jokes?

  3. #3 Jeff
    July 13, 2011

    That science is such an easy target for jokes about a serious public health issue is exactly the point,

  4. #4 Alan
    July 13, 2011

    Jeff – As Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is too important to take seriously”. In other words, should we all stop cracking jokes about death, taxes, and every other serious subject?

    OTOH: If you could show that these seemingly random jokers we part of an organised anti-science campagin, (eg:Penn & Teller), then you might have a point, but as it stands you’re just tilting at windmills.

  5. #5 Scott
    July 20, 2011

    “Apparently another way to activate endocannabinoids is to engage in “50 minutes of vigorous running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.””

    At least this way you will be high and skinny, but then eventually you will need medication when your knees start giving out and hurting, so which maybe the joke is on all of us.