Smoke Weed to Get Skinny? – Why Cannabis Users Gain Less Weight than Non-Users

September 29, 2023 · Cannabis.net

One of the most prominent effects of marijuana use is the undeniable craving for food that often ensues, commonly referred to as “the munchies.” When this sensation takes hold, no bag of chips, pack of Oreos, or any other sugary, salty, or fatty indulgence is spared. Interestingly, one might assume that all this snacking would lead to users piling on extra pounds. However, a recent study suggests that the opposite might be true.

In this study, researchers scrutinized Body Mass Index (BMI) data from 33,000 participants participating in the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. They compared the BMI of individuals who used marijuana with those who did not, all aged 18 and older, over three years.

While they unearthed a slight average weight discrepancy between users and non-users, amounting to approximately two pounds, this modest variance remained consistent throughout the entire study cohort.

Omayma Alshaarawy, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of family medicine at Michigan State University, remarked, “A two-pound average difference may not appear substantial, but we identified this trend within a diverse group of over 30,000 individuals, each exhibiting a range of behaviors, and yet, we consistently obtained this result.”

Moreover, the study revealed that marijuana users appeared to experience less weight gain over time than their non-using counterparts.

“Over three years, all participants demonstrated an increase in weight, but interestingly, those who used marijuana experienced a smaller increase than those who never used,” noted Alshaarawy. “Our study contributes to the growing body of evidence indicating this counterintuitive effect.”

Other studies have also observed a similar association between marijuana use and lower rates of weight gain and obesity. However, the exact cause remains a matter of debate. It is possible that certain cannabinoid compounds in marijuana influence metabolism in a manner contrary to popular belief, or it could be that users adjust their behavior to offset the extra calories.

“It might be more of a behavioural aspect, with individuals becoming more mindful of their food intake due to concerns about the munchies after using cannabis,” Alshaarawy suggested. “Alternatively, it could be the cannabis use itself, which may alter how specific cells or receptors in the body respond, ultimately affecting weight gain.”

Regardless of the underlying reasons (which could encompass metabolic and behavioral changes), the researchers emphasized that marijuana should not be viewed as a weight loss or maintenance aid.

“People should not regard it as a means to control or even reduce weight,” Alshaarawy cautioned. “There are numerous health concerns associated with cannabis that far outweigh its potential modest positive effects on weight gain.”

Furthermore, it’s important to note that this observational study focused on identifying correlations rather than establishing causation. This research does not prove that marijuana facilitates weight loss; it simply observes a consistent correlation over three years. To comprehend why this correlation exists, further research is required.

For those curious about why marijuana triggers the munchies, recent research suggests that THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, initiates a sequence of brain activity in neural networks responsible for our sense of smell and taste. When this activity reaches a certain threshold, the brain responds as if we are ravenously hungry, setting off the quest for snacks. However, this finding is based on experiments with mice, so the exact mechanism of the munchies in humans still needs to be determined.

The Persistent Two-Pound Gap: Examining the Weight Difference

In a study encompassing over 30,000 participants, researchers set out to explore the impact of marijuana use on body weight by scrutinizing Body Mass Index (BMI) data. What they found was intriguing – a consistent, albeit modest, average weight difference of approximately two pounds between marijuana users and non-users over three years.

This revelation challenges conventional wisdom, as the “munchies,” a well-known side effect of marijuana consumption, typically conjures images of voracious snacking and, consequently, weight gain. However, the study’s data consistently defied this expectation.

While seemingly minor, the two-pound disparity remained remarkably stable across diverse participants, each with a range of behaviors and lifestyles. Omayma Alshaarawy, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of family medicine at Michigan State University, noted that while two pounds might not seem substantial individually, it becomes noteworthy when observed across such a large and varied cohort.

This persistent difference prompts important questions about the relationship between marijuana use and body weight. Is it purely a matter of behavior, with users compensating for munchies by making more mindful dietary choices? Or does marijuana itself influence metabolism or specific receptors in the body, affecting the rate of weight gain? To uncover the true cause, further research is essential.

While this initial finding piques curiosity, it’s crucial to approach it with caution. This study was observational, focusing on identifying correlations rather than establishing causation. Therefore, it does not definitively prove that marijuana use leads to reduced weight gain. Instead, it highlights an intriguing pattern that invites deeper investigation into the complex interplay between marijuana, appetite, and body weight.

Possible Explanations: Unraveling the Cannabis-Metabolism Connection

Understanding why marijuana users tend to gain less weight than non-users has sparked various theories, offering intriguing insights into this perplexing phenomenon. One prominent hypothesis revolves around the influence of cannabinoids, the active compounds in marijuana, on metabolism. It is suggested that certain cannabinoids may interact with the body’s metabolic processes in ways that counteract the expected weight gain associated with increased calorie consumption. Nevertheless, the precise mechanisms responsible for this potential metabolic impact remain an area of active investigation.

Another theory highlights the role of behavioral adjustments among marijuana users. When individuals partake in marijuana and experience the “munchies,” they may become more mindful of their food intake. This heightened awareness could lead them to make healthier dietary choices to compensate for the indulgent cravings induced by marijuana. Essentially, users consciously manage their calorie intake, which might contribute to the observed reduction in weight gain compared to non-users.

Despite these intriguing hypotheses, it’s important to stress that correlations rather than causes are identified because the study is observational. As a result, even while these ideas offer important insights into the potential mechanisms at work, further research is absolutely necessary to fully understand the complex interactions between marijuana use, metabolism, and behavior in the context of weight management. We might better know how marijuana affects weight gain by interacting with the intricate systems of the human body as scientists continue to investigate this intriguing connection.

Bottom Line

The study disproves popular beliefs about the “munchies,” showing a consistent association between marijuana usage and a somewhat reduced rate of weight gain. Although the two-pound difference may appear negligible to an individual, its consistency over a wide range of people justifies further research into the intricate interactions between marijuana use, metabolism, and behavior. However, since this data is observational and does not prove causation, it is crucial to treat it cautiously. The study also highlights that due to several linked health issues, marijuana should not be used as a weight reduction or maintenance assistance. More investigation is required to determine the precise processes underlying this occurrence and to provide a more thorough knowledge of how marijuana affects appetite control and weight gain. (Full Story)

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