Most cannabis users think that there's no chance marijuana can be good for weight loss. The herb is notorious for stimulating appetite, more commonly known as "the munchies." The times are changing, though, and new evidence is suggesting that cannabis might actually help consumers lose weight rather than gain it.
The Connection Between Cannabis and Weight Loss
According to a study co-conducted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Harvard School of Public Health and scientists studying at the University of Nebraska, regular cannabis users generally have smaller waists and a lower BMI (body mass index) than their marijuana-free counterparts. This was true even after the researchers adjusted for factors including physical activity levels, gender, age and cigarette and tobacco use. The study participants who used marijuana also had higher levels of good cholesterol in their bloodstream, which has been shown to protect against heart disease, as well as lower levels of insulin resistance.
A separate study conducted in 2011 and published in the prominent American Journal of Epidemiology indicates that, while marijuana users consume an average of 600 more calories each day than their marijuana-free counterparts, obesity rates within marijuana users are actually one-third lower than they are in the general population, which is due to the ability of marijuana to improve good cholesterol, produce a lower BMI and regulate insulin levels.
Cannabis and Metabolism
Another way that cannabis helps control weight gain is by eliciting a positive influence on the metabolic system. When cannabis is ingested, the THC contained in cannabis stimulates the body to produce a hormone known as ghrelin. While it's quite unknown to the general public, ghrelin is famous among researchers who study metabolism for its ability to stimulate appetite. In addition to making us hungry, however, ghrelin also helps our bodies metabolize the food we eat more efficiently. With that in mind, it's clear that, while THC may increase our appetites, it also stimulates the metabolism to perform as well as possible.
Cannabis and Diabetes
One of the most important effects of cannabis, however, is its aforementioned role in lowering insulin resistance levels. Insulin is the hormone in the human body that is responsible for regulating blood sugars like glucose. While these blood sugars are pivotal for our survival and energy needs, too much of them can quickly become dangerous, resulting in both weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes.
Fortunately, marijuana helps control blood glucose, which can actually decrease a person's risk of diabetes. According to one 2013 study, people who used marijuana on a regular basis had 16 percent lower insulin levels than people who never used marijuana. These subjects also had lower rates of insulin resistance -- 17 percent lower, to be exact.
In light of this, it's clear that in addition to helping prevent excess weight gain, marijuana may also be a powerful form of diabetes prevention.
While marijuana is often associated with weight gain, it's now clear that cannabis can actually help people maintain a healthy weight. The plant does this by controlling insulin levels, increasing metabolism, boosting healthy cholesterol levels and triggering a set of hormonal changes that enhance the way we process food. Because of these things, people who consume marijuana can potentially have lower rates of diabetes, less risk of obesity, smaller waistlines and a lower risk of heart disease than those who don't.