A 2011 review of two national studies conducted between 2001 and 2003 sparked much of the debate about the effects of marijuana use on metabolism. The analysis found that people who had never used marijuana were more likely to be obese (at least 3 times a week or more) than regular marijuana users.
Similar findings were made in a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse that examined the link between marijuana use and obesity in youth. Anecdotal research suggests that cannabis may help reduce obesity rates and improve BMI by:
Reduce alcohol consumption
Increase in physical activity.
Help with sleep problems
Mimic Cortisol/Stress Response
Relieve pain that may interfere with movement
Additionally, these findings were validated by a review published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2018 that examined the relationship between cannabis use and body mass index (BMI). Cannabis lovers have been found to have lower BMI and obesity rates, despite eating more calories, suggesting that cannabis affects metabolism.
Tom Clark, chair of the biological sciences department at Indiana University South Bend, claims that marijuana users are thought to be naturally overweight because it stimulates appetite. Clark and his colleagues looked at 17 studies involving nearly 156,000 people and found that marijuana users were leaner than non-users. Additionally, their body mass index (BMI) was typically 7 percent lower; for a 6-footer, that’s a 15-pound difference. Most interestingly, marijuana users had a 30% to 35% lower risk of obesity.
Clark added that while THC induces an initial appetite, over time metabolism compensates for it. He went on to suggest that the consequences of reducing obesity would be greater if the current strain lost its chewing effect but maintained a higher metabolic rate. You don’t have to be a heavy smoker to lose weight. According to research, a single dose of marijuana can boost your metabolism and make you look slimmer in about four weeks.
While the exact dose of cannabis required is unknown, THC has a stronger metabolic effect than the more common legal, non-psychoactive cannabidiol. It is widely believed that our modern American diets are too high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in foods like vegetable oils and butter. Too much omega-6 can cause inflammation in the body. It also overstimulates CB1R receptors, which increases appetite, makes food taste better, reduces metabolic rate, and promotes fat accumulation. Clark claims that THC can “talk” to CB1R receptors, providing balance. In other words, it can help reduce hunger and weight gain.
THC can improve the gut microbiome, which also affects body weight. Elevated levels of Firmicutes and decreased levels of Bacteroidetes were associated with obesity. In an animal study in Canada, THC was administered to obese mice on a high-calorie diet. Their gut flora returned to normal and they stopped gaining weight. Still, bad eating habits can’t be fixed with marijuana. Myron Szewczuk, a biomedical researcher at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, claims that a diet high in sugar, fat and artificial sweeteners is not sustainable when trying to lose weight.
Not everyone agrees on the effects of marijuana on metabolism. According to Diana Martinez, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, the evidence that marijuana causes weight loss is not reliable. While there are animal studies, participants in human studies self-report their results, so it’s impossible to tell how much they’re consuming. A study is needed in which some participants receive THC and others receive a placebo to prove this idea. Martinez wasn’t always opposed to marijuana and its legalization. According to her, it could potentially treat debilitating diseases that require more treatment options, such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease. However, before large-scale human studies can be conducted, the US scientific community’s restrictions on THC must be relaxed.