Studies Suggest Cannabis Lowers Chances of Obesity

Some people avoid cannabis because of the highly-promoted myth that the ‘munchies’ causes weight gain. However, a recent study suggests that regular cannabis smokers have a waistline 1.5 inches smaller on average than non-smokers. In addition, the study indicates that cannabis smokers have a lower incidence of insulin resistance. The study suggests that regular cannabis smokers eat more but they metabolize it better and therefore, are more likely to lose weight.

Cannabis may have a different effect on weight than is being promoted by empirical media. Researchers at the Université Laval in Quebec, Canada surveyed 786 frequent cannabis smokers. Researchers surveyed the Nunavik Inuit people. Over half of the Nunavik Inuit people smoke cannabis. The Inuit people have a high instance of obesity, which is partly why they were chosen for the study. They determined that cannabis use correlated with lower body mass index(BMI), lower fat percentages, and lower fasting insulin levels. The studies suggest that although cannabis users have a higher caloric intake, they metabolize carbohydrates better. It also suggests that cannabinoids increase sensitivity to insulin, which helps. The mechanisms are becoming less obscure.

It confirms what the American Journal of Science reported in 2013. The AJS found a lower prevalence of obesity in cannabis smokers. Murray Mittleman is the lead author of the study. “The most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers,” Mittleman told TIME. “Their fasting insulin levels were lower, and they appeared to be less resistant to the insulin produced by their body to maintain a normal blood-sugar level.” 4,600 people participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination and the data was analyzed by the AJS. It contradicted what they’d expected from the results. Regular cannabis users had 16% lower fasting insulin levels than non-users. On average, 17% saw a reduction in insulin resistance.

Some believe that the ‘munchies’ only significantly affect users that are new to cannabis. Daniele Piomelli is professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine. Piomelli also studied the effects of cannabis on the metabolism. “The most likely explanation is that prolonged cannabis use causes the [receptors] to lose sensitivity and become inactive,” Piomelli told TIME. “This has been shown to happen in people who smoke marijuana. This weakening of [these receptors] translates into a lower risk for obesity and diabetes because the inactive receptor would be unable to respond to our own cannabis-like molecules, which we know are important in keeping us chubby.”

The new studies enhance what was reported earlier this summer. A study conducted at the University of Montreal reported similar findings. Their report indicates some participants gained weight, however, they found that males that smoke cigarettes lost weight after starting to smoke cannabis.

Ironically, alcohol has negative effects on the carbohydrate metabolism. Another reason cannabis is a great substitute for alcohol. The research is mounting. Will the study be enough to erase decades of the weight-gain stigma cannabis has been associated with?