A pilot study of the effects of cannabis on appetite hormones in HIV-infected adult men

Brain Res. 2012 Jan 11:1431:46-52. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2011.11.001. Epub 2011 Nov 7.


Rationale: The endocannabinoid system is under active investigation as a pharmacological target for obesity management due to its role in appetite regulation and metabolism. Exogenous cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) stimulate appetite and food intake. However, there are no controlled observations directly linking THC to changes of most of the appetite hormones.

Objectives: We took the opportunity afforded by a placebo-controlled trial of smoked medicinal cannabis for HIV-associated neuropathic pain to evaluate the effects of THC on the appetite hormones ghrelin, leptin and PYY, as well as on insulin.

Methods: In this double-blind cross-over study, each subject was exposed to both active cannabis (THC) and placebo.

Results: Compared to placebo, cannabis administration was associated with significant increases in plasma levels of ghrelin and leptin, and decreases in PYY, but did not significantly influence insulin levels.

Conclusion: These findings are consistent with modulation of appetite hormones mediated through endogenous cannabinoid receptors, independent of glucose metabolism.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use*
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use*
  • Ghrelin / blood
  • HIV Infections / blood*
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Leptin / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuralgia / drug therapy
  • Neuralgia / etiology
  • Peptide YY / blood
  • Pilot Projects


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Ghrelin
  • Hormones
  • Leptin
  • Peptide YY
  • Dronabinol