Does smoking marijuana increase your metabolism?
Is it true that your metabolism speeds up when you’re high off pot? I heard that when you have the munchies after smoking marijuana, it doesn’t matter what you eat because your metabolism is so fast. Please give me an answer!!
Dear Munchie Metabolism,
You may want to sit back, get comfortable, and grab a (healthy) snack to munch, because the jury’s still out on this one! There hasn’t been a definitive scientific verdict on whether marijuana affects your metabolism one way or the other. Some research on “endocannabinoids” — chemicals similar to marijuana, that your body naturally produces — has led researchers to think that blocking cannabinoids may decrease the chance of someone developing metabolic syndrome — which is a group of risk factors that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and other possible health issues. Also, as you mentioned, one side-effect of using marijuana may be hunger. Gobbling up heaps of goodies (particularly ones that aren’t supportive of a balanced diet) when you get the Mary Jane munchies may have other less-than-ideal impacts on your health, beyond any effect on metabolism.
While one popular study did claim an association between marijuana use and weight loss, the findings have been disputed, and there have been several studies since showing that marijuana use may actually be associated with weight gain and the development of pre-diabetes. It’s also possible that people believe marijuana can speed up metabolism because they’ve heard about the association between cigarette smoking and metabolism. However, this does not seem to hold true for marijuana.
When you’re high, those sweet, salty, and fatty treats may appear to have a heavenly glow about them. In fact, research on endocannabinoids supports the explanation for “the munchies,” too, and these appetite-stimulating effects of marijuana were documented as early as the year 300! Basically, the cannabinoid receptor system in your brain is thought to be involved in pleasure-seeking behavior, sensitivity to smells, and a heightened response to sweet flavors — all things that could send you dashing to the pantry. Unfortunately, this same biological pathway might signal to your body to increase its fat storage and insulin production. This evidence has even been used as one of the arguments for the medical use of marijuana: for example, researchers have found that people living with HIV/AIDS who need to gain weight will typically eat more when they use cannabis.
While more research may be needed on marijuana and metabolism, what you eat still matters — under any circumstances and beyond just weight-related concerns. In fact, excess sugar in your diet can lead to poor oral health, accelerated aging, and an increased risk of type II diabetes, even if you’re not putting on pounds; excess salt can lead to high blood pressure and osteoporosis; and too much fat can increase risk of some cancers and heart disease. If you’re worried about your munching habits, consider reading I’m bored, so I eat in the Go Ask Alice! archives for tips on ways to reduce unnecessary snacking. Chatting with a registered dietician or health care provider about achieving a balanced diet and lifestyle may also help inform how to maintain a healthy weight.
All this to say, when it comes to marijuana and metabolism: if something seems too good to be true (like unlimited snacking without health consequences). it might just be!
Dear Alice, Is it true that your metabolism speeds up when you're high off pot? I heard that when you have the munchies after smoking marijuana, it doesn't matter what you eat because your metabolism is so fast. Please give me an answer!! — Munchie Metabolism
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What Marijuana Does to Your Metabolism
The effects of marijuana use are wide-ranging. Some strains make you feel sleepy and relaxed, others make you feel energetic and creative; but one of the most universal effects of getting stoned is acute, unremitting hunger. It is a phenomenon known as “the munchies,” and though it is commonly associated with late night, high-calorie diets, studies suggest that the relationship between cannabis use and the human metabolic system is more complex than it might seem.
In fact, the rate of obesity andВ diabetes among weed smokers is dramatically reduced compared to non-marijuana users, researchers found. Also, frequent marijuana users are generally slimmer than non-users, with waistlines that are 1.5 inches smaller, on average, than their former or non-using counterparts.
After surveying 786 adults in an Inuit communityвЂ”where more than half of the indigenous population reported frequent cannabis useвЂ”researchers at UniversitГ© Laval in Quebec, Canada, determined that smoking pot statistically correlated with lower body mass index (BMI), lower fat percentages, and lower fasting insulin levels.
Published in the journal Obesity, the study’s findings support what several other research institutions have found regarding the effects of marijuana on metabolism. In 2013, the American Journal of Science released a report that also noted the low prevalence of obesity in cannabis users despite an abundance of empirical and anecdotal evidence linking stoners to high caloric diets.
“The most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers,” Murray Mittleman, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the study, 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.”
In that study, researchers analyzed data reported by more than 4,600 people participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination SurveyвЂ”48 percent of whom had used cannabis at least once and 12 percent reported they were active users at the time of the surveyвЂ”and what they discovered seemed to defy explanation. Current marijuana users had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels than former and non-users; they also showed, on average, 17 percent reduction in insulin resistance.
Remarkably, population-based data from these reports also indicate that regular marijuana users are about 30 percent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. So even though smoking pot might give you the munchies, rending you defenseless against a bag of Doritos (as the cliche would have it, at least), rates of obesity and diabetes are reduced nonetheless among stoners.
“Cannabis smoking may also result in similarly increased energy expenditure as with cigarette smoking,” Michel Lucas, an epidemiologist at UniversitГ© Laval, told ATTN:. “In fact, cannabis smoking directly increases heart rate and blood pressure for several hours, as with tobacco.”
“[It would] be very interesting to see if the cannabis effect is the same when you eat or smoke it,” he added.
The rate of obesity and diabetes among weed smokers is dramatically reduced compared to non-marijuana users, researchers found. In 2013, the American Journal of Science released a report that also noted the low prevalence of obesity in cannabis users despite an abundance of empirical and anecdotal evidence linking stoners to high caloric diets.