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New Study Finds Regular Cannabis Use Associated with Lower Body Fat, No Loss in Bone Density

Those who regularly consume cannabis have a lower body mass index, on average, than those that don’t use it at all, according to a new study.

Researchers from Oregon’s Health and Science University have found regular cannabis use to be associated with a lower body fat percentage. A new study, published in Archives of Osteoporosis, found those who consumed cannabis more than five times per month had an on average lower body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight, compared to non-users.

The researchers – Carrie M. Nielson, Donald Bourne, Wesley Plinke, and Elizabeth R. Hooker – surveyed 4,743 participants nationally between the ages of 20 and 59 to investigate the relationship between cannabis use and various health outcomes.

“Heavy users of cannabis had a lower mean BMI compared to that of never users, with a mean BMI being 26.7 kg/m2 in heavy users and 28.4 kg/m2 in never users,” Nielson and her team wrote in the study’s results.

The investigators found there to be no relationship between the prevalence of cannabis use and changes in bone mineral density of the lumbar spine or proximal femur. While bone density naturally decreases with age and subsequently increases the risk of osteoporosis, previous studies have found cannabis and its cannabinoids to be beneficial for boosting bone density by interacting with the endocannabinoid system’s cannabinoid 2 receptors (CB2).

The study also reported that heavy users had a higher median time spent performing physical activities than all other levels of cannabis use. Heavy users reported 50 percent more minutes on physical activity every day compared to light and former users (45 minutes vs. 30 minutes).

Sixty percent of the survey’s participants responded that they had used cannabis at some point. Forty-seven percent reported that they were former users (used previously, but not in last 30 days), while 5 percent claimed to be light users (1 to 4 days of use in last 30 days), and 7 percent were heavy users (5 or more days of use in last 30 days). A higher proportion of men (65 percent) than women (54 percent) reported using cannabis at least once.

Previous studies have found cannabis use to be linked to a lower BMI, lower body fat percentage, and smaller waist circumference. Preclinical animal trials even suggest that cannabis can serve as protection against obesity. Researchers believe that cannabis protects against excess fat gain through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for managing metabolic function. A dysfunctional or overactive endocannabinoid system may contribute to fat accumulation and obesity, and cannabinoids may help keep the system operating properly.

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in so far eight U.S. states and Washington D.C., while 28 states and Washington D.C. have passed legislation allowing for comprehensive medical marijuana. Today, 95 percent of the U.S. population lives in an area where some form of marijuana is legal.

You can access the entire study, “Cannabis use and bone mineral density: NHANES 2007-2010,” via Springer Link.

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