Pot smokers tend to be thinner than those who abstain. This might come as a surprise to anyone who ever heard of the munchies. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2011 found potheads were about a third less likely to be obese than non-potheads. Many other studies agree.

(cannabis use)

Smoking dope makes you less likely to be obese, like the one on the right. Photo: www.CGPGrey.com

The data

Researchers studied data obtained from two large national surveys of people in the United States, covering about 52,000 of ’em. In the first, 22 percent of the uninitiated were obese, but only 14 percent of the potheads were. The second found 25 percent of non-potheads to be obese, while only 17 percent of regular cannabis users were. Dope-smoking was deemed to make obesity less likely even after other factors were taken into account. These include age, gender and cigarette smoking.

It’s possible that it isn’t the cannabis itself that makes you less likely to be obese. Research has found highly religious folk less likely to take drugs but more likely to be obese. This may be because they’re replacing one compulsive behaviour (cannabis use) with another (overeating, not religion).

But doesn’t cannabis stimulate appetite?

It should also be borne in mind that a popular use of cannabis for medical purposes is the stimulation of appetite in people who have cancer (and you should be taking cannabis for that, anyway), AIDS (you want cannabis for that, as well) and other conditions (hell, take cannabis for those, too). Multiple studies have shown cannabis to raise appetite, at least in the short-term.

One study, Behavioral analysis of marijuana effects on food intake in humans, published in Pharmacology Biochemisty and Behavior way back in 1986, found that a low dose of cannabis (one joint a day) didn’t affect food intake, but a larger dose (two or three joints) did. This led to further studies of people with HIV and cancer.

But, yes, perhaps smoking dope makes you thinner

But it’s possible that pot-smoking makes you thinner. One reason, borne out by a study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2013, is that cannabinoids, the chemicals comprising cannabis, positively affect blood sugar and carbohydrate metabolism. Murray Mittleman, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author, remarked of pot smokers: “Their fasting insulin levels were lower, and they appeared to be less resistant to the insulin produced by their body to maintain a normal blood-sugar level.”

Glucose intolerance has a major impact on body fat gain, as well as being a forerunner to full-blown diabetes. A great number of scientists have decided that what is key to fighting the obesity epidemic is minimising glucose intolerance. Bodybuilders and dieters will tell you the same: eliminating sugar and carbohydrates from the diet is critical when it comes to losing fat. Big Pharma has taken note, with GW Pharmaceuticals (a British company! Yay!) already taking a look at the effects of cannabinoids on glucose intolerance, with promising initial results.

Of course, if you’re looking to lose weight, you might prefer to just eat more soup. Soup is often low in calories and fats and high in fibre. It can speed up a person’s metabolism, burning more calories naturally. Some of the nicer ones recommended by a licensed dietitian are bacon and sweetcorn chowder and pea soup with ham and croutons.

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