Even if you donâ€™t smoke weed, youâ€™ve probably heard of the munchies â€” that overpowering drive to eat all the snacks after smoking cannabis.
But others swear that smoking weed not only makes them eat less, but also causes them to lose weight.
Using cannabis may be associated with lower body weight, but itâ€™s not as straightforward as it sounds.
Hereâ€™s a look at what we do and donâ€™t know about the relationship between smoking cannabis and weight loss.
Does the research really link cannabis to weight loss?
Most recently, a meta-analysis of the relationship between cannabis use and body mass index (BMI) showed that cannabis users had significantly lower BMIs and obesity rates but an increased calorie intake.
Itâ€™s important to remember that this research simply suggests there are some links between cannabis use and lower body weight. Itâ€™s unclear whatâ€™s behind this link, and thereâ€™s not enough evidence to say that using cannabis is an effective way to lose weight.
Plus, using cannabis comes with its own risks and downsides (more on this later).
Whatâ€™s the reasoning behind those study results?
Experts have a few theories on why cannabis use is linked to reduced BMI and lower chance of obesity.
It can increase mobility
When used properly, cannabis may relieve symptoms of pain and stiffness. This means that people with mobility issues may find that they can be more active when using cannabis.
It may cause some people to drink less
Some experts suspect that younger people who use cannabis may consume less alcohol than those who donâ€™t. This means that theyâ€™re not taking in calories from alcoholic drinks, which could contribute to lower BMIs.
It can lower stress
Stress eating is a very real thing. Studies show that people are more likely to overeat and rely on comfort foods when stressed.
Itâ€™s no secret that weed can ease anxiety and help calm you when youâ€™re feeling stressed. Some believe that this might replace stress eating for some people.
It may improve sleep
Poor sleep can be a factor in weight gain. Thereâ€™s some evidence that cannabis may improve insomnia. Plus, it may help reduce stress and pain, two of the main culprits behind poor sleep.
It may boost metabolism
Thereâ€™s some evidence that cannabis interacts with cannabinoid receptor 1 , which plays a role in metabolism and food intake. High amounts of cannabis appear to increase metabolism and reduce energy storage, resulting in a lower BMI.
Using cannabis doesnâ€™t cause sudden weight loss. But experts believe it may help with some underlying factors that can contribute to weight gain in some people.
Much more research is needed to fully understand the link between cannabis use and weight.
What about the whole â€˜munchiesâ€™ thing?
The research around cannabis and weight loss catches some people off guard because of the long-standing association between weed and snacking.
However, you should keep in mind that correlation doesnâ€™t mean causation. Just because there was increase in sales of these foods where cannabis is legal doesnâ€™t mean that the cannabis was responsible.
How can people be eating more and losing weight while smoking weed? Researchers are still trying to figure out the specifics, but a balancing act between two major cannabinoids in weed might offer some explanation.
THC, the psychoactive compound that produces weedâ€™s â€œhigh,â€ has been shown to trigger hunger. Itâ€™s the reason why people sometimes use cannabis as an appetite stimulant.
CBD, on the other hand, seems to counteract certain effects of THC, including its appetite-boosting and mood-altering effects.
Whatâ€™s the catch?
At first glance, the research might seem to suggest that smoking weed is a good way to lose weight. But thereâ€™s no evidence that using cannabis directly causes weight loss.
It might contribute indirectly by helping with certain issues, including chronic pain and poor sleep, that can contribute to higher body weight.
Plus, using cannabis isnâ€™t without risks, especially if you smoke it.
Cannabis smoke contains many of the same irritants, toxins, and cancer-causing agents as tobacco smoke, according to the American Lung Association.
And because weed-smokers inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in longer, theyâ€™re exposed to more tar per breath than cigarette smokers.
Over time, smoking weed damages your lungs and airways, reducing respiratory function and increasing your risk for airway inflammation and chronic bronchitis.
Then thereâ€™s the issue of misuse and dependence. Up to 30 percent of users may have some degree of cannabis use disorder, according to a report from 2013. Younger people are especially at risk, particularly people who use cannabis before the age of 18.
The bottom line
Even though thereâ€™s some evidence that smoking weed may affect weight, a lot more research is needed.
Plus, smoking still does more harm than good, even if itâ€™s just cannabis. Using cannabis through nonsmoking methods may offer some health benefits, but itâ€™s not recommended for weight loss.
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