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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 community—where more than half of the indigenous population reported frequent cannabis use—researchers at Université 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 Survey—48 percent of whom had used cannabis at least once and 12 percent reported they were active users at the time of the survey—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.

Does Smoking Weed Really Make You Lose Weight?

Whether or not you’ve ever smoked weed, you’ve probably heard of the munchies — that overpowering drive to eat all the snacks after smoking weed.

But others swear that smoking weed not only makes them eat less, but also makes them lose weight.

Using marijuana may be associated with lower body weight, but it’s not as straightforward as it sounds.

Here’s a look at what we do and don’t know about the relationship between smoking weed and weight loss.

A lot of the noise around smoking weed for weight loss comes from a 2011 review of two surveys. The authors concluded that rates of obesity were higher among people who reported not using marijuana compared to rates among those who used marijuana at least 3 days a week.

Shortly before those results were published, a study examining the association between cannabis and obesity in young people made similar conclusions.

Most recently, a meta-analysis of the relationship between cannabis use and body mass index (BMI) showed that cannabis users had significantly lower BMIs and obesity rates but an increased calorie intake.

It’s important to remember that this research simply suggests there are some links between marijuana use and lower body weight. It’s unclear what’s behind this link, and there’s not enough evidence to say that using marijuana is an effective way to lose weight. Plus, using marijuana comes with its own risks and downsides (more on this later).

Experts have a few theories on why marijuana use is linked to reduced BMI and lower risks of obesity.

It can increase mobility

When used properly, marijuana may relieve symptoms of pain and stiffness. This means people with mobility issues may find that they can be more active when using marijuana.

It may cause some people to drink less

Some experts suspect that younger people who use marijuana may consume less alcohol than those who don’t. This means they’re not taking in calories from alcoholic drinks, which could contribute to lower BMIs.

It can lower stress

Stress eating is a very real thing. Studies show that people are more likely to overeat and reach for comfort foods when stressed.

It’s no secret that weed can ease anxiety and help calm you when you’re feeling stressed. Some believe that this might replace stress eating for some people.

It may improve sleep

Poor sleep can be a factor in weight gain. There’s some evidence that cannabis may improve insomnia. Plus, it may help reduce stress and pain, two of the main culprits behind poor sleep.

It may boost metabolism

There’s some evidence that cannabis interacts with cannabinoid receptor 1 , which plays a role in metabolism and food intake. High amounts of cannabis appear to increase metabolism and reduce energy storage, resulting in a lower BMI.

Using marijuana doesn’t cause sudden weight loss. But experts believe it may help with some underlying factors that can contribute to weight gain in some people.

Much more research is needed to fully understand the link between marijuana use and weight.

The research around marijuana and weight loss catches some people off guard because of the long-standing association between marijuana and major snacking.

Indeed, a recent study showed an increase in sales of junk food, which the authors largely defined as chips, cookies, and ice cream, in U.S. states where marijuana is now legal.

How can people be eating more and losing weight while smoking weed? Researchers are still trying to figure out the specifics, but a balancing act between two major cannabinoids in marijuana might offer some explanation.

THC, the psychoactive compound that produces weed’s “high,” has been shown to trigger hunger. It’s the reason why people sometimes use cannabis as an appetite stimulant.

CBD, on the other hand, seems to counteract certain effects of THC, including its appetite-boosting and mood-altering effects.

At first glance, the research might seem to suggest that smoking weed is a good way to lose weight. But there’s no evidence that using marijuana directly causes weight loss.

It might contribute indirectly by helping with certain issues, including chronic pain and poor sleep, that can contribute to higher body weight.

Plus, using marijuana isn’t without risks, especially if you smoke it.

Marijuana smoke contains many of the same irritants, toxins, and cancer-causing agents as tobacco smoke, according to the American Lung Association.

And because weed smokers inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in longer, they’re exposed to more tar per breath than cigarette smokers.

Over time, smoking weed damages your lungs and airways, reducing respiratory function and increasing your risk for lung infections and even lung cancer.

It can also weaken your immune system, which interferes with your body’s ability to fight disease.

Then there’s the whole issue of misuse and dependence. Up to 30 percent of users have some degree of marijuana use disorder, according to recent data. Younger people are especially at risk, particularly people who use marijuana before the age of 18.

Even though there’s some evidence that smoking weed may affect weight, a lot more research is needed.

Plus, smoking still does more harm than good, even if it’s just marijuana. Using marijuana through nonsmoking methods may offer some health benefits, but it’s not recommended for weight loss.

Last medically reviewed on October 30, 2019

Yes, there's some evidence linking marijuana use to lower body weight, but it's not that simple.