Contrary to Netflix-and-nachos stereotype, cannabis users might be slimmer, on average, than those who don't indulge.
A study in the Journal of Obesity found marijuana users had lower body fat mass, a lower BMI, and lower fasting insulin levels than the general population.
But let's not get carried away: the average person will still probably get better results with CrossFit than cannabis
The study examined a small sample of 800 adults living in the Canadian Arctic. Those who reported using cannabis averaged a 25% body-fat reading, and BMI of 26.8: by contrast, non-users averaged 28% body-fat and BMI of 28.6 (a BMI of 25-30 is considered overweight.) But that doesn't mean marijuana is a weight loss aid per se. It's been suggested the Arctic's problems with food insecurity could have influenced the findings, as respondents may have used cannabis to distract themselves from the inaccessibility of quality food.
Still, the findings raise questions about the munchie-inducing effect of marijuana, which we wrote about in an earlier post.
Scientists hope studying cannabis can help them better understand what happens in the brain when we overeat, and ultimately help people curb the compulsion.
Cannabinoid receptors in the brain help control appetite, mood, memory, and pain perception. Especially of interest to scientists? Cannabinoid receptor type 1 (a.k.a. CB1), which releases hormones that make you hungry. Suppressing CB1's activity is thought to help people lose weight. But when an anti-obesity drug called Rimonabant, an inverse agonist for the cannabinoid receptor CB, sparked severe depression in patients, it was was withdrawn from the market. As a result, pharmaceutical firms have discontinued research on similar compounds, leaving lingering questions about how cannabinoids could help regulate appetite.
Paradoxically - anecdotal evidence suggests weed can be used successfully to treat eating disorders by offering an escape from oppressive, depressing or body dysmorphic thoughts. But for people who struggle with food, getting the munchies and bingeing - and the subsequent guilt that comes with that- could ultimately make their condition worse.
A doctor can help patients establish whether marijuana - a complex, powerful drug with many different medical applications related to appetite and weight, most of which are far from being fully understood - is right for them.