One of the more well-known effects of marijuana is the increased feelings of hunger, also known as the “munchies.” However, many smokers swear that smoking weed has helped them lose weight despite consuming more calories. So, can marijuana help you lose weight despite the overpowering drive to eat everything in sight after a smoke session? The whole idea may sound counterintuitive and, in this article, we will try to understand more about the relationship between marijuana and weight loss.
Marijuana and Weight Loss
Medical marijuana has generated a significant amount of buzz over the past several years for its ability to treat a variety of conditions, ranging from muscle spasms, nausea, epilepsy, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, to chronic pain caused by chemotherapy. The recognition and acceptance of the plant’s therapeutic effects have resulted in a growing number of states in the United States legalizing its medical usage (and in some states, its recreational usage).
One of the more recently discovered results of medical cannabis use is lower body weight. And while marijuana use may be associated with a reduction in the BMI (body mass index), their relationship is not as straightforward as it sounds.
The current buzz around cannabis-related weight loss started when researchers published data from two surveys in 2011. The surveys included over 50,000 respondents. The research concluded that the rates of obesity dropped to around 16.1% among people who used marijuana at least three times a week for the past 12 months as compared to those who did not. These differences were not observed when accounting for tobacco usage. The same studies noted that the decline in weight among the participants increased with the frequency of marijuana use. This is despite several clinical trials and pieces of evidence showing that the plant stimulated appetite, resulting in increased caloric intake.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, these two studies were not the only ones who came out with these bizarre results. Several other studies examining the association between marijuana and obesity drew similar conclusions. One such research, published in the National Library of Medicine in 2010, focused on young adults and concluded that those who used cannabis were less likely to be categorized in the overweight/obese group. Furthermore, everyday cannabis users showed the least prevalence of obesity with an odds ratio of only 0.2%. And yet another study conducted in 2005 and published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases revealed the same results. Other studies across different countries, like Italy, Poland, Hungary, and Canada, have replicated these findings.
So now that we have established the answer to “Can marijuana help you lose weight?” people are now looking to understand how this phenomenon works.
Marijuana and Metabolism
Cannabis users enjoying lower BMI despite increased energy intake? This may sound complicated but, in 2018, a group of researchers proved that the idea behind this is simple. To understand the relationship between marijuana and weight loss, we need to understand a few factors – how our endocannabinoid system works and how marijuana interacts with this complex bodily system.
The human body’s endocannabinoid system. This cell-signaling biological system influences and modulates a lot of our important biological functions and processes, including memory, mood, sleep, immune system responses, appetite and digestion, fertility, and metabolism, among others. Despite the endocannabinoid system’s integral role in our bodily functions, it is a very complicated system and it was not only until relatively recently that scientists have understood much of its potential functions and importance.
The endocannabinoid system has two main receptors – the CB1 receptors, mostly found in the nervous system, and the CB2 receptors, mostly found in the peripheral nervous system.
Effects of marijuana on the endocannabinoid system. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana’s most popular cannabinoid, is the compound that causes people to be “high.” Once inside the human body, THC is also known to interact with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our endocannabinoid system. The THC compounds that bind to the CB1 receptors have been observed to calm them down. So, while marijuana does trigger an initial short-term up-regulation, triggering the release of hormones that result in the munchies, it switches to a long-term down-regulation behavior on the receptors. This means that marijuana users, regardless of factors like age and gender and reason for cannabis intake, experience an increase and a more efficient burning and storage of calories. Thus, several researchers have concluded that cannabis users enjoy trimmer waistlines and lower BMI than non-users.
Following chronic marijuana consumption, recently abstinent users may even continue to experience weight loss and metabolic benefits until their CB1 receptors return to pre-cannabis levels. This theory is well-supported as one of the most popular symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, as listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s manual, is weight loss.
With a deeper understanding of the significance of the endocannabinoid system and how the cannabis compound THC interacts with it, researchers were able to set out and propose a novel theory on how marijuana use can affect our metabolism and weight loss.
Aside from THC, other cannabinoids such as the THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) and CBD (cannabidiol) have also been shown to help trim waistlines over time. More clinical trials and research, however, need to be conducted to better understand the role of these compounds on weight loss.
Can Marijuana Help You Lose Weight
Can marijuana help you lose weight? Yes. Regular weed consumption is linked to lower BMI and obesity rates. It is believed that the compound THC may be the reason for the weight loss experienced by regular cannabis users. Despite any metabolic imbalance caused by poor dietary decisions or other factors, THC can influence our endocannabinoid system to switch gears and burn calories more efficiently. These effects on our endocannabinoid system are also observed to last for weeks, which is why cannabis consumers continue to lose weight in the following weeks after they stop consuming weed. It is, however, important to note that cannabis is not a prescription for weight loss. The best way to reach your physique goals is to follow a diet and fitness plan that works for you.