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    ATLANTA (Reuters) - The same family of chemicals that produces a buzz in
    marijuana smokers may be responsible for "runner's high," the euphoric
    feeling that some people get when they exercise, U.S. researchers say.

    High levels of anandamide were found in young men who ran or cycled at a
    moderate rate for about an hour, according to a study made public this week
    by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California,

    Anandamide is a cannabinoid, or lipid molecule, that is naturally produced
    in the body. It is known to produce sensations that are similar to those of
    THC, the psychoactive property in marijuana.

    The study's findings, which were recently published in the journal
    NeuroReport, fly in the face of those who believe that the release of brain
    chemicals called endorphins cause the peculiar high that some runners and
    cyclists claim to feel.

    Arne Dietrich, the study's principal investigator and a former visiting
    professor at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, believes the body releases
    cannabinoids to help it cope with the prolonged stress and pain of moderate
    or intense exercise.

    "No other study has ever considered this possibility, which is why the
    results are so significant," said Dietrich, who added that there were no
    indications that cannabinoids caused any harm when naturally released
    during intense exercise.

    He added that the findings could provide sufferers of glaucoma and chronic
    diseases an alternative to using marijuana for pain control. Use of the
    drug for medical purposes has been approved by voters in some states, but
    remains illegal under federal law and highly controversial in the medical

    The 24 young men who participated in Dietrich's study were asked to run,
    cycle or sit. If they ran or cycled, participants began with a brief
    warm-up, followed by 45 minutes of moderate exercise and then a short
    cool-down period.

    Dietrich said further studies were necessary to determine the precise
    nature of the increase in cannabinoids during physical activity and to what
    degree the intensity, duration and type of exercise affected their release.

    The "runner's high" theory emerged in the United States during the running
    craze of the 1970s, when researchers discovered the brain's opiate
    receptors, which are proteins located on the surface of nerve cells.

    Some scientists, however, say the concept is a myth.


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