The new findings indicate that cannabis and its compounds impact how the body regulates energy.
A study recently published in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that adults who use marijuana are less likely to gain weight and be obese compared to non-users.
Researchers from Michigan State University used data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to assess the relationship between marijuana use and body weight in more than 33,000 people.
For their cannabis effects on weight gain study, scientists assessed the responses of NESARC participants in two waves. In the first round of interviews, conducted in 2001-2002, the participants were asked about their history of cannabis use, including how recently and how frequently they consumed the substance. Those same participants completed follow-up interviews in 2004-2005, during which they were asked if they had consumed marijuana since the first interview.
In between the two rounds of interviews, the researchers monitored body mass index (BMI) of all participants, including those who were new cannabis consumers (“initiates”), persistent users, people who had stopped using cannabis, and those who had never consumed it.
After excluding adults over 65 years to eliminate the effects of natural weight loss caused by age, the researchers found that those who reported using marijuana gained weight, but a rate lower than those who had never used marijuana.
“In NESARC, persistent cannabis users and the initiates were under-represented in stably obese subgroups,” the researchers wrote in the study. “In addition, these same actively cannabis-using subgroups were under-represented among newly incident cases of obesity observed at W2.”
Why Would Marijuana Users Gain Less Weight?
The researchers investigating the effects of marijuana use on weight gain offered multiple theories as to why marijuana consumers may gain less weight.
The first theory presented by the researchers is that consuming cannabis may help people more properly regulate energy by influencing the endocannabinoid system’s cannabinoid 1 receptors (CB1). The endocannabinoid system, sometimes referred to as the EC system, is a major regulatory network that cannabinoids within cannabis interact with. The researchers suggest that regular cannabis consumption may cause a downregulation of CB1 receptors, which play a major role in the storage and conservation of energy in the body.
A second theory has to do with the interaction of cannabis-derived cannabinoids with the endocannabinoid system’s cannabinoid 2 receptors (CB2), which have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties.
“The association of inflammation and obesity is widely established in pre-clinical and clinical studies,” the researchers point out in their study.
Previous findings have linked cannabis use to a lower BMI. Earlier this year, researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Pittsburgh found that men who used cannabis had a lower BMI than non-users.
If you’re interested in reading the new study on cannabis and weight gain, “Are cannabis users less likely to gain weight? Results from a national 3-year prospective study,” you can access it through the International Journal of Epidemiology.
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