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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Smoking cannabis every day can help you control your weight, according to the latest science. Contrary to the stereotype of a stoner unable to control the munchies, those who use marijuana actually have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-users, according to the results of a new study.

The research, from the University of Miami School of Business Administration and Miller School of Medicine, were published in the September 2016 issue of The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics. It shows that daily female cannabis users have a BMI about 3.1 percent lower than that of female non-users, and daily male users have a BMI 2.7 percent lower than male non-users.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight, used to classify overweight and obese individuals.

Michael T. French, Ph.D., University of Miami School of Business
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Michael T. French, Ph.D.,
University of Miami School of
Business Administration:

“Our findings run counter to popular belief which associates marijuana use with laziness and increased appetite”
[University of Miami]

Researchers said they controlled for several other factors that could potentially correlate with BMI. Demographic variables included age, race, ethnicity, employment status, and marital status.

They also controlled for cigarette smoking, other substance use, and alcohol consumption, as well as measures of weekly exercise and self-rated “health status.”

“Our findings run counter to popular belief which associates marijuana use with laziness and increased appetite,” said Michael T. French, PhD, professor of health sector management and policy at the University of Miami School of Business Administration. “If marijuana use is significantly related to these physiological characteristics, you would expect a positive association with marijuana use and BMI.

“Our study has demonstrated the opposite,” said French, who conducted the study with lead investigator Isabelle Beulaygue, PhD, from the university’s Miller School of Medicine.

Isabelle Beulaygue, University of Miami: "Quote" [University of Miami]
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Isabelle Beulaygue, University of Miami:
“There is a popular belief that people who consume marijuana have the munchies, and so are going to eat a lot and gain weight, and we found that is not necessarily the case”
[University of Miami]

“There is a popular belief that people who consume marijuana have the munchies, and so [they] are going to eat a lot and gain weight, and we found that it is not necessarily the case,” Beulaygue, lead study author and research specialist in interventional radiology at the University of Miami, reports Oscar Pascual at SF Gate.

The researchers point out that the study results are correlational rather than causal, and that it would be irresponsible to advocate for marijuana use as a dieting strategy. Future research could explore the metabolic and behavioral pathways underlying the negative associations between marijuana use and BMI.

Methodology

Using data from the of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (sample size greater than 13,000 people), the researchers used econometric models to rigorously study the relationships between marijuana use and body mass index over six years vs. simply at one point in time.

Their analyses included young adults over the age of 18, when the use of marijuana and other drugs ordinarily peaks. Numerous sensitivity tests and alternative estimation techniques confirmed the core findings.

For example, they also investigated the relationship between marijuana use and waist circumference, an alternative measure of body size. Just as with BMI, it was found that marijuana use is negatively associated with waist circumference.

Here is a link to the full study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27572145.

Other Studies Reach Same Conclusion

The study supports a 2015 study conducted in Canada that found regular marijuana users to have lower body mass index, lower fat percentages, and lower fasting insulin.

Scientists at the University of Nebraska, the Harvard School of Public Health, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center also found that marijuana users had a smaller waist circumference than those who had never used cannabis.

A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology surveyed more than 52,000 participants and found that rates of obesity are about one-third lower among cannabis users. This is something of a mystery, since on average, pot smokers consume about 600 more calories per day.

A study published last year in Obesity measured data from over 700 members of Canada’s Inuit community and found that on average, regular cannabis users had increased levels of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol HDL-C (good cholesterol) and slightly lower levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol LDL-C (bad cholesterol).

It turns out that cannabis may help your metabolism work more efficiently. THC stimulates the production of a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin is well known to the science community as a potent appetite stimulator, hence the munchies.

In fact, ghrelin is so potent in this regard that it’s often called “the hunger hormone.” However, while this compound is what drives us to eat, it also plays a big role in helping our bodies break down and metabolize carbohydrates.

Emerging research emerging on the relationship between cannabinoids and insulin regulation may lead to breakthroughs in the prevention of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, both of which are correlated to high levels of unused blood sugars that are ultimately stored as fat.

 

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