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Smoking Weed for Weight Loss: Does it Work?

What to know before toking up.

You’ve probably heard that ongoing punchline about how stoners always have the munchies. But is it actually true? Maybe.

Research shows that smoking marijuana does affect the mechanisms that trigger hunger in our brain: receptors in our brain trigger the release of hormones that make us feel famished, causing us to gobble up everything in sight.

But even though there’s evidence to support the Cheetos-munching stoner stereotype, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely true. Other studies have shown that smoking pot doesn’t lead to weight gain.

In fact, people who regularly smoke get high off weed are less likely to be overweight or obese compared to those who don’t, according to a paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. The study included more than 30,000 participants. All put on weight during the three year study, but those who smoked weed gained the fewest pounds. This was determined by comparing Body Mass Index for participants in the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions study.

Researchers tied to that study theorize that cannabis may create cellular changes that impact weight gain.

And this isn’t the only study that indicates stoners may weigh less than people who don’t smoke. A 2011 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that even if weed consumption increases appetite, “people using cannabis are less likely to be obese than people who do not use cannabis.” Other studies indicate that many cannabis users have trimmer waistlines than non-users, as well as lower cholesterol levels. What’s more, these results have proven to be true regardless of sample size or factors like age and gender.

So why else might this be the case? Researchers speculate it’s because of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that causes people to be “high.” To test the link between THC and weight loss, researchers at the University of Calgary examined obese mice and mice at a regular weight, both of which were given THC daily. The researchers found that while THC did not have any effect on the size of the mice who were already at a regular weight, it did cause the obese mice to lose weight. The researchers hypothesized that this was because THC caused changes in the gut microbiome that helped regulate weight loss and digestion.

Other studies in Poland, Italy, Hungary, Canada and the UK have replicated these findings, leading some researchers to conclude that there is “a correlation between cannabis use and reduction in the BMI,” said Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, a Washington-based physician and cannabis researcher. “This association holds even after controlling for other variables,” such as age, gender, or why a person is smoking marijuana to begin with (so for instance, a cancer patient who uses marijuana as a method of pain relief).

That said, there’s also some evidence indicating that marijuana’s effects on weight fluctuation are more complicated than Aggarwal would suggest. Didier Jutras-Aswad, a professor of neuroscience at University of Montreal, has studied how cannabis affects the functions of neurobiological circuits controlling appetite.

“It is known … that cannabis causes temporary increase in appetite,” which can indeed lead to weight gain, he said. Yet he conceded that “as to whether it actually causes weight gain in the long term, the available data is limited.”

It’s important to note that cannabis isn’t a prescription for weight loss: If you don’t exercise and have unhealthy eating habits, then smoking weed probably won’t help you have a lower BMI. Plus, you also want to consider that smoking weed is tied to breathing problems, psychosis, and mania-like symptoms in people with bipolar disorder. In fact, research suggests that smoking marijuana can lead to chronic bronchitis even injure the cell linings on your lungs, according to the American Lung Association.

Bottom line: there’s no evidence suggesting weed will help with your physique goals. The best way to lose weight is by following a diet plan that works for you.

​​Contrary to popular belief, smoking pot doesn't lead to weight gain — according to a few studies. In fact, weed might even help you maintain your weight.

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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.