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Debunking the Myths: How Smoking Weed Affects Your Metabolism

debunking the myths how smoking weed affects your metabolism

If you identify as a member of the cannabis community or cannabis advocate, you are probably well aware of the stigmas and stereotypes associated with marijuana use. Mainstream media doesn’t help, with movies that support misconceptions about cannabis and the people who use it on a regular basis.

One of the most common stereotypes is that marijuana can make you gain weight and that most cannabis users are obese. That probably stems from the fact that some strains can cause a severe case of munchies, like Cereal Killer.

Many people have other health concerns that may contribute to weight gain. Balancing a healthy body weight comes down to nutritional balance and regular exercise as well. If you use medical marijuana on a regular basis, you may be wondering if it may help or hinder your weight management goals.

What Does THC Do to Your Metabolism?

Cannabis concentrates with a high THC potency may stimulate metabolic rates in some people. That can increase the rate at which you burn calories, both during activity and while at rest. Lower-potency cannabis may help you feel more relaxed but is unlikely to slow down your metabolism.

Contrary to belief, cannabis Sativa will not accelerate your metabolism unless they are concentrated cannabis products. Indica cannabis, while it has sedating effects on cognitive functioning and mobility, may not slow your metabolism.

The intake method you choose may impact your metabolic rate. For example, edibles have a longer duration of psychoactivity and physical effects. Consuming cannabis regularly appears to downregulate the CB1R and increase metabolism while reducing energy storage (fat).

Hypothetically, THC edibles could have a positive effect at higher concentration levels by increasing metabolism and fat burning (energy homeostasis) for up to seven hours, which may help with weight loss. One study also suggested that significant cannabinoids such as THC and CBD may help transform fat into brown fat cells (3T3-L1 adipocytes).

weight loss

Does Using Cannabis Make You Gain Weight?

Separating fact from fiction, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that regular use of cannabis will cause weight gain. Cannabis can affect weight in different ways, but medical science is still researching why weight variances occur.

One of the earliest studies, published by TIME magazine in 2011, was conducted on 52,000 participants. That research reported that 25% of nonsmokers were obese, compared to 17% of people who used marijuana.

The study also suggested that THC triggers feelings of pleasure and can mimic hormones, like dopamine, that make us feel good. Dopamine is also released when we eat foods we like, so the hypothesis was that cannabis could replace the food “pleasure center” and give us the same feelings of satisfaction. Ergo, we would eat less.

No evidence supports cannabis-induced weight loss. However, a few studies suggest the link between cannabis use and obesity is presumed, like a societal stigma inspired by the “munchies” phenomenon and other stereotypes about cannabis users who are lazy or inactive.

Marijuana users are less likely to gain weight than people who do not regularly use cannabis products. In fact, more research suggests that people who have consumed cannabis have a higher probability of being average body weight or lean, with a statistically reduced body mass index.

medical cannabis

Cannabis Studies Suggest Regular Users Have Lower BMI

Cannabis use seems to be correlated, according to many clinical studies, with an overall lower body mass index or BMI. Researchers funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse published a study in 2020, “Bidirectional Longitudinal Associations Between Cannabis Use and Body Mass Index Among Adolescents,” which shed light on lower BMI among cannabis users.

The study reported that “cannabis use and BMI are associated over time and may have bidirectional influences on one another.” The researchers felt that education for adolescents who had high BMI would be beneficial to decrease, delay, or prevent cannabis use.

Recovery from substance abuse disorders did cause unhealthy weight gain. However, they did not attribute the cause to cannabis, but rather the replacement of dopamine provided by THC with salty and high carbohydrate food intake.

People who use medical marijuana or recreational cannabis are not prone to weight gain. However, withdrawing from any controlled substance can trigger cravings, which can be satiated with food. The study also suggested that people with a naturally low BMI may be more susceptible to weight gain caused by poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle.

Cannabis and Weight Studies from Michigan State University

In March 2019, Omayma Alshaarawy, Ph., who was an assistant professor of family medicine at Michigan State University, led a research study to determine whether people who regularly use cannabis were prone to weight gain and higher obesity rates.

The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology and found that:

  • Cross-sectional data indicated that the activation of cannabinoid receptors in animals was associated with an increase in food intake and weight gain.
  • The studies in humans show a lower prevalence of weight gain and obesity among regular cannabis users.
  • The amount of weight gain among regular cannabis users is nominal and lower compared with people who have never used cannabis. The average change in body mass index was 2.7%.

One of the theories as to why cannabis may help maintain a lower BMI is the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids. Clinical studies on mice concluded that pro-inflammatory obesity occurred in mice who were not given cannabis and where the CB2R receptor was not activated by marijuana. Inflammation alone can cause a desire to consume more calories.

More research is needed to understand how the endocannabinoid system works in the human body. Several global studies have come to similar conclusions about cannabis and weight gain; most studies have shown reduced BMI results for people who use cannabis regularly.

Heavy users of cannabis may experience withdrawal symptoms after they stop consuming THC, which can trigger hunger and cravings. Non-users can also increase caloric intake due to chronic diseases like diabetes, which impacts blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. Also, some autoimmune diseases can have the same effect, contributing to unwanted weight gain.

Research suggests that cannabis has a minimal impact on obesity rates. However, chronic health conditions, substance abuse problems, and the presence of eating disorders may contribute to unwanted weight gain or loss. Cannabis may not help with weight loss, but it is also not directly responsible for weight gain either.


Increased Mobility May Help Maintain Healthy Body Weight

One of the most common reasons why people use medical marijuana is to help with symptoms of inflammation and chronic pain. While there are numerous prescription drugs, including NSAIDs and opioid medications, many people develop a tolerance to these drugs over time. And they simply become ineffective at providing any degree of pain relief.

The use of any controlled substance can lead to tolerance, which means the drug is less effective. One of the distressing things about opioid use is that tolerance can build quite quickly. Patients then require higher potency prescriptions, which are adjusted in tandem with increased resistance.

What we have recently learned in the past ten years is that opioid medications not only dwindle in efficacy over time, but they can also amplify pain symptoms. It is hard to believe that a pain reliever can actually make symptoms worse, but that is the unfortunate truth about opioids.

The human brain is a high-powered supercomputer that registers both pain and inflammation. If it stops receiving pain signals because of prescription medication use, it essentially turns up nerve sensitivity. The result is patients living with NSAID or opioid tolerance and increasing pain levels.

However, doctor-supervised cannabis use may help improve mobility. And that may be one of the reasons why regular cannabis users are more active (not lazy, as stereotypes imply) and able to regulate their body weight better. Provided they exercise regularly and maintain healthy eating habits.

The Impact of Pain on Physical Fitness and Self-Care

When you hear the term chronic cannabis users, you may picture people who are not using medical marijuana responsibly. However, patients who experience pain, muscle spasms, or mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression may use it on a daily basis, which qualifies them as chronic cannabis users.

When you see someone who has a debilitating condition, they may struggle to maintain a healthy BMI. That may not be the result of a lack of nutrition or poor lifestyle habits. Frequently, patients with chronic symptoms face mobility issues, where movement or exercise can be painful for them.

Doctor-supervised cannabis can have a positive effect on patients and help them improve pain and symptom management. That may also make it possible to exercise and conduct activities of self-care and daily living better. From lack of mobility to comfortable ambulation, this is one of the ways that cannabis can make a difference in the lives of patients.

cannabis munchies binge eating

Cannabidiol Can Reduce Appetite and Cravings

Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive compound found in small quantities in cannabis plants. Agricultural hemp has higher levels of cannabidiol, and hemp is used to create most CBD products. There are many benefits to choosing medical cannabis strains that have high CBD ratios.

If you cannot find medical cannabis strains that have a high ratio of cannabidiol (CBD), you can take a daily supplement. Cannabidiol and THC work well together. First, cannabidiol can reduce some of the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Second, CBD has been shown in many global clinical trials to have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the human body.

Many symptoms like Arthritis and chronic pain are rooted in chronic inflammation. Taking a daily CBD supplement can help you get better results. It does not matter what time of day you take CBD; if you have problems sleeping, a nighttime sleep gummy may help.

Some Strains Can Stimulate Appetite

A common qualifying health condition for medical cannabis is Cachexia, which is weight loss and wasting of the body due to a chronic illness. What is interesting about cannabis strains that stimulate appetite is the drive to snack, even if you have recently eaten. And the potential to overeat when consuming them.

Some of the strains known for stimulating appetite include:

  • Pineapple Kush.
  • Girl Scout Cookies (GSC).
  • Candyland.
  • Purple Kush.
  • Chemo (UBC Chemo).
  • Head Cheese.

There are many health conditions that can cause rapid and unhealthy weight loss. People receiving chemotherapy treatments for cancer can experience side effects such as nausea and vomiting. Some strains of cannabis can help reduce nausea, making eating meals easier for patients and restoring energy intake.

Rapid weight loss can quickly compromise the health of someone struggling with a chronic disease and weaken the immune system. Cannabis isn’t a tool used for regulating appetite, but research shows that it can help stimulate appetite. Strains can affect individuals differently.

Ask your marijuana doctor or healthcare provider for suggestions on cannabis use if your wellness goals include weight loss or weight gain.



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