Conventional cannabis wisdom states that the “munchies” must lead to packing on the pounds. However, new data is challenging this theory, and, like many mary jane myths, you may be surprised at what researchers actually discovered.
In a new paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, Michigan State University researchers discovered that cannabis users are likely to gain less weight than those who do not partake. “Over a three-year period, all participants showed a weight increase, but interestingly, those who used marijuana had less of an increase compared to those that never used,” study co-author Dr. Omayma Alshaarawy, assistant professor of family medicine at Michigan State University, said in a statement. “Our study builds on mounting evidence that this opposite effect occurs.”
Cannabis users, whether new or veteran users are less likely to be obese according to the study.
“We found that users, even those who just started, were more likely to be at a normal, healthier weight and stay at that weight,” Alshaarawy says. “Only 15 percent of persistent users were considered obese compared to 20 percent of non-users.”
The researchers at Michigan State the body mass index (BMI) data from over 30,000 individuals. They identified an average two-pound difference for a 5-foot-7-inch study participant weighting 200 pounds.
“An average 2-pound difference doesn’t seem like much, but we found it in more than 30,000 people with all different kinds of behaviors and still got this result,” Alshaarawy said.
The study did not conclude exactly why cannabis users tend to gain less weight. Alshaarawy speculated but was careful not to make any conclusions without further research. “It could be something that’s more behavioral like someone becoming more conscious of their food intake as they worry about the munchies after cannabis use and gaining weight,” she said. “Or it could be the cannabis use itself, which can modify how certain cells, or receptors, respond in the body and can ultimately affect weight gain. More research needs to be done.”
New diet fads are constantly forming but Alshaarawy is not recommending cannabis as the next weight loss trend.
“There’s too many health concerns around cannabis that far outweigh the potential positive, yet modest, effects it has on weight gain,” Alshaarawy said. “People shouldn’t consider it as a way to maintain or even lose weight.”
She may be right, but for those already using cannabis, consider this a possible bonus.