It is well known that smoking marijuana leads individuals to experience something called ‘the munchies,’ where users tend to eat a lot more than normal. While you would think that this affect would lead marijuana-smokers to be more obese than non-smokers, there are now multiple studies which suggest that moderate use of marijuana can actually lessen the probability that someone will be obese (though it is possible that thinner individuals simply smoke more often than overweight individuals).
One such study that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, which found that marijuana use directly affects body weight, lowering rates of obesity by roughly a third among people who smoke pot at least three times a week compared with those who don’t use marijuana at all.
This study included over 52,000 participants, with cannabis users being obese less often than their non-using friends. Even after adjusting for other factors like age, body type, and habits like cigarette smoking, cannabis still caused a positive affect in body weight.
This could possibly be because many people who use cannabis regularly actually do so to instigate an appetite where one is lacking – such as in AIDS or cancer patients – and these individuals are less likely to be obese to begin with. But then the French study found:
“The adjusted prevalences of obesity in the NESARC and the NCS-R were 22.0% and 25.3%, respectively, among participants reporting no use of cannabis in the past 12 months and 14.3% and 17.2%, respectively, among participants reporting the use of cannabis at least 3 days per week. These differences were not accounted for by tobacco smoking status. Additionally, after adjustment for sex and age, the use of cannabis was associated with body mass index differences in both samples. The authors conclude that the prevalence of obesity is lower in cannabis users than in nonusers.”
In addition to this study are recent findings from GW Pharmaceuticals and the University of Buckingham which suggest that some of the compounds found in marijuana can have a beneficial effect for people suffering from metabolic diseases associated with obesity.
You can bet that the research is going to support the pharmaceutical versions of marijuana instead of the natural compounds:
“In animal trials, it was discovered that these compounds acted as appetite suppressants, lowered cholesterol, decreased fat buildup, and improved insulin response to sugars.”
Then there is the possibility that marijuana compounds lessen stress for individauls, which is a big motivator for many who over-eat or binge-eat due to anxiety and depression. The proof keeps stacking up – marijuana needs to be removed from Schedule I so more people can benefit from its medicinal qualities.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.