Does Marijuana Reduce Obesity Rates? Studies Offer a Tentative Yes

While “the munchies” are a well-known and medically documented affect of marijuana use, did you know that several studies found that, over time, consumption of cannabis appears to actually reduce obesity risk? According to several research publications, including research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, and a University of Miami study on marijuana and BMI, cannabis use may help lower rates of obesity and diabetes.

But how can a substance that stimulates appetite help people lose weight? Although some cannabinoids interact with human appetite signals, causing feelings of hunger even after eating, the authors of several studies found that subjects who use cannabis a minimum of three days per week had a significantly lower obesity prevalence than those who did not.

Numbers that surprised the experts

Because the affects of marijuana are well-reported, some study authors predicted that obesity rates in cannabis users would be greater than that of non-users. However, weight management involves a complex tapestry of social, biological, and environmental factors. Cannabis may trigger an as-yet unidentified physiological response in humans, though a Phytomedicine study on rats reported encouraging findings. When obese rats were given cannabis extract, their blood sugar levels dropped and they were found to gain less weight than those in control groups.

Although no studies have identified any causal factors in lower obesity rates and cannabis use in humans, the correlation is difficult to ignore. In one of the studies identified in the American Journal of Epidemiology research paper (the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions from 2001-2002), marijuana users were found to have an obesity rate of approximately 14 percent, while non-users were found to have an obesity rate of 22 percent. The other paper cited (National Comorbidity Survey-Replication, 2001-2003) found the obesity rate among marijuana users to be 17 percent, and non-users at 25 percent. At a differential of nearly 10 percent, it is entirely conceivable that there is some connection.

Early research promising

There could be several reasons why obesity rates in cannabis users are lower than in non-users. Cultural and social factors may not have been incorporated in the research. Were the study participants more active than the non-participants? Did they have access to better, healthier foods? Whatever the reason, the early research indicates that further study is clearly needed. Hopefully, the current political environment could be more welcoming to alternative, and hopefully effective, solutions to what has become a global problem.

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