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The Impact of Marijuana on Weight Loss: Fact or Fiction?

the impact of marijuana on weight loss fact or fiction

There are conflicting views about medical cannabis and weight loss. If you buy into the Hollywood tropes, you would believe that all people who use cannabis are overweight, unambitious, and frankly lazy. That is one prevailing and inaccurate stereotype.

Various factors, including health conditions, age, dietary intake, and physical activity, cause weight gain. Lifestyle habits are one piece of the puzzle regarding achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Some people believe cannabis can cause weight loss. Wouldn’t it be nice to eat whatever we wanted, knowing that the healing herb would magically burn off excess calories? That is also something of a myth because cannabis, in itself, does not burn off calories.

But, new studies have suggested that the potential wellness benefits of medical marijuana can make it easier to maintain a healthy body weight. When you consider all the reasons that people use medical cannabis, it makes sense that some of those benefits may help you stay fit and happy.

metabolism boost

The Munchies and Myths About Cannabis and Obesity Rates

What came first? The myth that cannabis users are commonly overweight or that all types of cannabis give you the munchies? Neither assumption is correct.

While it is true that many different strains can stimulate appetite, and food tastes delicious sometimes when you are high, that doesn’t mean that everyone who uses cannabis is overweight. The opposite is true. Only some strains of cannabis are an appetite stimulant, and most people are not using cannabis all the time, increasing their daily caloric intake.

Several recent studies suggest that the various effects of cannabinoids consumed regularly can help some people maintain a healthy body weight. It may not help you with weight loss goals or make you lose weight, but cannabis could provide effects that help your body move better, burn calories more efficiently, and help reduce stress, which can cause excessive food intake.

A Recent Study About Cannabis Users With Healthy BMIs

A group of researchers from Michigan State University in East Lansing conducted a study to figure out whether people who regularly use cannabis were more or less likely to gain weight. Or if chronic cannabis users, on average, had a statistically higher body mass index (BMI).

The researchers published “Are cannabis users less likely to gain weight? Results from a national 3-year prospective study” on March 16, 2019. Omayma Alshaarawy, Ph.D., an assistant professor of family medicine at Michigan State University, and his team reviewed data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC).

The study was expansive, with anonymous data from 33,000 American patients over the age of eighteen. The participants had completed computer-assisted interviews about cannabis use and provided body mass index data spanning from 2001 to 2005.

Participants fell into three categories:

  • 77% had never smoked marijuana or used cannabis products.
  • 18% formerly used cannabis but had quit recently.
  • 3% had just begun to use medical cannabis.
  • 2% identified as persistent or chronic cannabis users.

The insights from the study were fascinating and started to change the narrative about cannabis and weight loss. Not only did the study acknowledge that cannabis plays an important role as a healthcare aide for individuals with conditions like HIV, cancer, and cachexia, stimulating appetite for patients who suffered from nausea and appetite loss.

Rimonabant, a CB1R antagonist, had been approved for treating obesity in Europe for some time. Clinical trials conducted on rimonbant showed weight-loss benefits. Marijuana users who do not consume cannabis in excess did not experience cannabis-induced weight loss. But they did have lower obesity rates.

Chronic cannabis use was associated with CB1R down-regulation or suppression. That was discussed as a potential source of weight gain. However, moderated use of cannabis had no pro-obesity rates or effects. However, it explains why some people gain weight after they have stopped using cannabis.

People who consume a large quantity of cannabis and sustain heavy use over more extended periods could be at risk of weight gain. However, the study suggested that the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids may help people maintain a healthy reduced body mass index.

patient and doctor

Can Medical Cannabis Help You Lose Weight?

No research suggests that cannabis can help reduce food intake or contribute to successfully losing weight. Statistically, people who regularly use cannabis over a sustained period can have a lower body weight. Studies have shown cannabis users, on average, have a reduced body mass index.

However, the impact of cannabinoids on inflammation may be the root cause. Inflammation is the human body’s natural response to injury, infection, and anything else the brain determines may harm our well-being.

Chronic Inflammation and Weight Increase

Acute inflammation is short-lived. For example, if you injure a toe, you may find that the skin in the surrounding area turns red, and the temperature becomes warmer. That is, your brain mobilizes the “disaster recovery” steps to assess and heal the injury when you have become injured.

Our bodies are designed to cope with intermittent injuries or responses to danger. However, chronic inflammation does significant damage to our bodies. Instead of turning on the inflammation switch briefly, inflammation is ongoing, creating a persistent state of emergency for your immune system.

Chronic inflammation can be caused by poor diet, lack of regular exercise, sleep problems, prescription medications, regular consumption of alcoholic drinks or tobacco smoke, and certain chronic diseases. However, few people know chronic inflammation contributes to weight gain and makes it far more challenging to lose weight.

People with chronic inflammation experience metabolic disorders, which can trigger increased insulin production. When insulin levels are higher than usual, it can increase fat storage, especially around the abdominal area.

Inflammation is also an appetite stimulant, altering the natural levels of two hormones that influence appetite regulation: leptin and ghrelin. Both hormones signal feelings of hunger and fullness (or satiation). When leptin and ghrelin levels are abnormal, you may feel more hungry and consume more food, which can lead to more food intake and a higher body weight.

weight loss cannabis

Cannabinoids Can Reduce Inflammation

The primary cannabinoid that has the most significant impact on reducing inflammation is cannabidiol or CBD. Most strains of cannabis have some cannabidiol content; medical marijuana strains tend to have a higher CBD ratio because of the anti-inflammatory benefits.

Some of the other inflammation-fighting minor cannabinoids include:

Medical cannabis products that have good minor cannabinoid and CBD content can provide the best potential benefits for patients suffering from chronic inflammation. Addressing inflammation and insulin resistance can help lower BMI.

Cannabis does not directly cause weight loss, but it may help reduce the negative impact of inflammation and boost metabolism. That may be the reason why regular cannabis users have an overall lower BMI compared to non-users and some food for thought.

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