Here’s a surprising fact: You won’t always get the munchies if you consume cannabis. Yes, they exist but not every user becomes a ravenous junk food obsessive who will go through dramatic journeys to satisfy high-induced cravings. In fact, the plant has actually helped some people lose weight. It sounds counterintuitive but there’s scientific and anecdotal data to back it up. Curious? Here’s everything you need to know.
What Science Says
Back in 2011, results from two national surveys found “that despite the evidence that cannabis [consumption] stimulates appetite in clinical trials and laboratory studies, users are actually less likely to be obese than nonusers.” That surprising fact was confirmed in a longer, three-year study published in 2019. But why does that happen? A 2018 study theorizes that you’re actually storing less fat and burning more calories in the long run when you regularly use cannabis. While you might be eating more, your metabolism is also getting a boost.
But It’s Not Just Metabolism
It’s not simply a matter of your body breaking down what you’re eating faster. According to Joseph J. Sabia, a professor at the University of San Diego, people who use cannabis usually also drink less, which means their overall caloric intake is lower. Plus, the plant reduces stress levels, aids in better, more restful sleep, and relieves bodily pain. These are all things that have been known to help with weight loss. You not only feel better, you’re also going to have the extra energy to start and stick to an exercise plan.
Does Smoking Weed Really Make You Lose Weight?
Whether or not you’ve ever smoked weed, you’ve probably heard of the munchies — that overpowering drive to eat all the snacks after smoking weed.
But others swear that smoking weed not only makes them eat less, but also makes them lose weight.
Using marijuana may be associated with lower body weight, but it’s not as straightforward as it sounds.
Here’s a look at what we do and don’t know about the relationship between smoking weed and weight loss.
Does the research really link marijuana to weight loss?
A lot of the noise around smoking weed for weight loss comes from a 2011 review of two surveys. The authors concluded that rates of obesity were higher among people who reported not using marijuana compared to rates among those who used marijuana at least 3 days a week.
Shortly before those results were published, a studyTrusted Source examining the association between cannabis and obesity in young people made similar conclusions.
Most recently, a meta-analysisTrusted Source 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.
It’s important to remember that this research simply suggests there are some links between marijuana use and lower body weight. It’s unclear what’s behind this link, and there’s not enough evidence to say that using marijuana is an effective way to lose weight. Plus, using marijuana comes with its own risks and downsides (more on this later).
What’s the reasoning behind those study results?
Experts have a few theories on why marijuana use is linked to reduced BMI and lower risks of obesity.
It can increase mobility
When used properly, marijuana may relieve symptoms of pain and stiffness. This means people with mobility issues may find that they can be more active when using marijuana.
It may cause some people to drink less
Some experts suspectTrusted Source that younger people who use marijuana may consume less alcohol than those who don’t. This means they’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 reach for comfort foods when stressed.
It’s no secret that weed can ease anxiety and help calm you when you’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. There’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
There’s some evidenceTrusted Source 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 marijuana doesn’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 marijuana use and weight.
What about the whole ‘munchies’ thing?
The research around marijuana and weight loss catches some people off guard because of the long-standing association between marijuana and major snacking.
Indeed, a recent study showed an increase in sales of junk food, which the authors largely defined as chips, cookies, and ice cream, in U.S. states where marijuana is now legal.
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 marijuana might offer some explanation.
THC, the psychoactive compound that produces weed’s “high,” has been shown to trigger hunger. It’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.
What’s the catch?
At first glance, the research might seem to suggest that smoking weed is a good way to lose weight. But there’s no evidence that using marijuana 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 marijuana isn’t without risks, especially if you smoke it.
Marijuana 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, they’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 lung infections and even lung cancer.
It can also weaken your immune system, which interferes with your body’s ability to fight disease.
Then there’s the whole issue of misuse and dependence. Up to 30 percent of users have some degree of marijuana use disorder, according to recent data. Younger people are especially at risk, particularly people who use marijuana before the age of 18.