Study Confirms That Cannabis Users Less Likely To Gain Weight
One of the most outdated yet popular stereotype of cannabis users is that of the couch potato: fat, lazy, and constantly eating.
However, science has proven us wrong.
There are dozens of studies that continually emerge with the evidence that cannabis can indeed lower one’s body mass index (BMI) – a globally accepted measure of body fat which is also used to determine one’s overall health.
The latest study to contract the fat, lazy stereotype was published just last week at the International Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers from Michigan State University analyzed data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a representative study sample of over 33,000 people aged 18 and up in the United States.
From 2001-2002, they conducted the initial interviews, asking participants if they consumed cannabis. If they did, they were asked how often and how recently. By 2004-2005 they were asked to come back for a follow-up survey and were asked if they’ve consumed pot since the first interviews. The researchers also discounted feedback from participants who had turned 65 years old by then, since studies show that BMI gradually declines in the elderly since they lose muscle mass with age.
What was interesting was that they found “an attenuated BMI gain for cannabis-use subgroups when compared with never-users.” In layman’s terms, this means that people who said they consumed cannabis did gain weight but at a much slower rate compared to people who don’t toke up.
“In NESARC, persistent cannabis users and the initiates were under-represented in stably obese subgroups,” reads the study. “In addition, these same actively cannabis-using subgroups were under-represented among the newly incident cases of obesity observed at W2.” W2 refers to the second wave of interviews conducted from 2004-2005.
Why Cannabis Users Are Less Likely To Gain Weight
In December 2018, the researchers published a meta-analysis of the study’s findings which include theories to support the findings. One of them suggests that the cannabinoid receptor CB1R decreases in density the more cannabis one consumes.
“For many patients, cannabis may be a better option for weight loss than surgery or pharmaceuticals,” they wrote.
The second theory has to do with the link between body mass index and cannabis use, because the anti-inflammatory characteristics of the CB2R receptor may actually help reduce obesity. “The association of inflammation and obesity is widely established in pre-clinical and clinical studies,” they write.
The researchers hope that the study brings hope for the use of cannabinoids and research particularly where it can help patients suffering from weight loss due to certain conditions including cancer and HIV.
Another study published last year sheds some light on the other possible reasons why cannabis users have a reduced tendency for obesity.
The study conducted by researchers from the Indiana University South Bend released a paper entitled, “Theoretical Explanation for Reduced Body Mass Index and Obesity Rates in Cannabis Users” rationalizes this phenomenon through their findings that the body mass index of cannabis users are reduced across the board when compared to non-smokers. The researchers said that obese mice subjects stopped getting fat once they were given cannabis, and they also say that obesity rates in states with legal cannabis laws have dropped as soon as the states adopted these laws.
The findings suggest that once you take up a cannabis habit, it can help you lose weight efficiently because it doesn’t require much pot to desensitize the CB1R receptor. Just smoking up once or twice a week is enough for desensitizing the receptor for up to 4 weeks, and when it is desensitized to THC, it’s less likely to become overwhelmed due to an imbalance of the omega 6 fatty acids so it won’t react by storing too much energy in the human body.
“Weight loss will increase as energy intake and storage remain depressed,” says the paper, “and metabolism stimulated, until CB1R returns to pre-Cannabis use levels.”
However, it isn’t just as easy as taking a cannabis diet pill that will ensure the CB1R receptor is always depressed. That’s because the CB1R also has other important functions in the body including regulating the GABA, a neurotransmitter that mitigates anxiety. This is one reason why many obesity pills in the market that work by downregulating the CB1R often causes severe side effects such as depressive disorder and anxiety.
Instead, for these researchers they suggest that the most effective and balanced solution to weight loss would be to consume cannabis while ensuring you have a healthy ratio of omega fatty acids in the body.