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Popular cult classics such as “The Big Lebowski” would have you believe that people who use marijuana not only always have the munchies, but they're also too lazy to engage in a lot of physical activity.

With those kinds of stereotypes pervading movies and TV shows, it makes sense that many people would assume marijuana use is positively associated with heavy weight gain.

But a study published March 16, 2019, in the International Journal of Epidemiology appears to undermine that belief. It's the latest research to show that marijuana users are actually less likely to be obese compared with non-users.

Photo by I Yunmai/Unsplash

For their work, Michigan State University researchers drew on data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a cross-sectional, nationally representative study sample of U.S. citizens ages 18 and older. In total, they looked at the reported responses of more than 33,000 people.

In the first wave of interviews completed in 2001-2002, participants were asked if they used cannabis and, if so, how recently and how frequently. When they returned for their follow-up interview in 2004-2005, researchers asked participants if they used cannabis since that first interview.

Between the two interview periods, researchers tracked an increase in body mass index (BMI) in all categories of respondents — those who'd never consumed, people who had discontinued past use, “initiates” (newbies), and persistent users.

Once they excluded participants who were older than 65 (research shows BMI declines in older people are often due to loss of muscle mass), they discovered “an attenuated BMI gain for cannabis-use subgroups when compared with never-users.”

In other words, those who reported using marijuana gained weight, but at a reduced rate compared with those who have never consumed cannabis.

Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps News

“In NESARC, persistent cannabis users and the initiates were under-represented in stably obese subgroups,” the study stated. “In addition, these same actively cannabis-using subgroups were under-represented among newly incident cases of obesity observed at W2.”

The study offers a couple of theories to explain why marijuana users experience lower weight gain. One, for example, has to do with how the density of a specific cannabinoid receptor, CB1R, decreases with frequent cannabis use. It's a theory that was first introduced in 2018 by a separate team of researchers at Indiana University South Bend.

“For many patients,” they wrote in the meta-analysis they published in December, “Cannabis may be a better option for weight loss than surgery or pharmaceuticals.”

For many patients, cannabis may be a better option for weight loss than surgery or pharmaceuticals. Click To Tweet

Another possibility to explain the relationship between marijuana use and BMI has to do with the anti-inflammatory properties of another cannabinoid receptor, CB2R. “The association of inflammation and obesity is widely established in pre-clinical and clinical studies,” the study's authors write.

These findings are important for future biomedical research regarding cannabinoids — especially since medical marijuana is often touted as a potential treatment for preventing weight loss in HIV/AIDS and cancer patients, the study stated.

The average cannabis consumer concerned about his or her waistline might also find a little bit of comfort in these results, too — especially since other research has indicated that states with legal marijuana saw an increase in junk food purchases.


This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.