Could Marijuana Use Lower Body Fat?

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Categories : Medical cannabis

Could Marijuana Use Lower Body Fat?

A new study finds (again) that marijuana use appears to promote lower body fat by regulating body's metabolism.

Up until the beginning of this century, marijuana was primarily used to treat AIDS, and in some cases, cancer patients. The prevailing conventional wisdom was that marijuana actually caused people to “gain weight” – both by encouraging those with no appetite to actually eat – and because of the infamous “munchies” that recreational users regularly experience.

However, more recent studies seem to indicate that regular, daily marijuana use might actually lower overall Body Mass Index (or BMI). In a new study by the University of Miami, and published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, researchers found that daily users had (on average) a 3% lower percentage of body fat than those who did not use the drug. Even more intriguingly, ingestion appears to slightly affect women more positively than men. In the study, researchers looked at 13,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 26. They then followed up six years later. Women, on average, had a 3.1% lower BMI. Male users had a 2.7% lower BMI.

How could that be the case?


The first reason could be that marijuana users who are utilizing the drug as a painkiller are actually motivated to get up and move if not engage in regular exercise. Being sedentary, all by itself, is one of the major causes of all kinds of conditions – obesity being one of them. Marijuana users are, in fact, less obese than non-smokers. An American study in 2011 found that 22% of non-smokers were obese, compared to only 14% of smokers.

There is also starting to be some evidence that marijuana use, particularly among runners, enhances performance (in part because it overcomes feelings of pain) and enhances the so-called “natural high” caused by the body’s endorphin system.

It could be that cannabinoids act not only to eliminate pain but also stimulate other chemicals in the brain, creating the “euphoria” described by recreational smokers. The “euphoria” in fact could be the response of a body merely releasing other natural endorphins and chemicals that have no other place to go and nothing else to do except make people feel good.


There are still more studies that claim that marijuana lowers both blood pressure and blood sugar. The medical research on pot and diabetes, like many conditions, is in its infancy. However, lowering either/or could also impact a person’s willingness or ability to be more active. A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Medicine also found that marijuana actually helps if not manipulates insulin production in the body, creating better overall metabolic functioning.


It also could be that marijuana users who are relying on the drug to help with so-called “psychological” disorders (like depression) are also eating differently. Depressed people tend to drink more alcohol, eat more foods high in (bad) carbs, and use food as a crutch. If they are smoking marijuana, the drug could be making them feel better, so they pay more attention to healthier diets and lifestyles overall.
Further, the drug also clearly helps quell anxiety. “Nervous eating” is often a symptom of both depression and anxiety. By attacking both, the drug may also stop the urge to medicate with another substance – in this case food.


One of the more fascinating things about the endocannabinoid system of the body is that it apparently acts as a regulator. That is one of the reasons, apparently, that cannabinoid receptors are found in almost every part of the body. Further, because pain and depression are also carried along the same pathways in the body, it could be that cannabinoids act uniquely as a “shield” or protector, if properly stimulated, to “reset” the brain and body after pain sensations.

The combination of making a person feel better physically and mentally would go a long way in resetting other kinds of behaviour – including being more active and eating right – which would also lead to weight loss or at least healthier eating and lifestyle habits.


None of these findings are particularly surprising when considering what the endocannabinoid system of the body actually is. It is a clustering of natural cannabinoid receptors found primarily in the brain and entire nervous system of every mammal. It is responsible for regulating processes that deal with appetite, pain-sensation, immune response, mood and memory.

By ingesting cannabis, the receptors respond and process the drug in a variety of ways that are still not understood because of a lack of research. It could very well be that by carefully manipulating the amount and percentages of the different cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, people are able to stimulate or repress natural body responses (i.e. pain and hunger). This would also explain why people react differently to the drug itself, depending on their own metabolisms as well as the overall functioning of the same.


For right now, at least, it is safe to assume that marijuana is not a weight loss tool. That said, when used medically, the drug clearly helps restore a more normal regulatory and metabolic functioning.