Cannabis and weight loss: could they be connected? That’s a question many people have wondered, especially since the release of a notable review published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2011. This review looked at the results of two national surveys and found lower rates of obesity among cannabis users. Since the release of these findings, there have been other studies that suggest cannabis users have lower BMIs than non-cannabis users. While there isn’t conclusive evidence that proves cannabis can help maintain a lower weight, these initial studies and analyses seem to indicate it may.
So, these new studies and reports found that cannabis users tend to weigh less than non-users. But why? Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly how cannabis might interact with body weight. Cannabis research is still in its infancy and there just haven’t been enough studies on cannabis and weight loss to know anything for sure. However, there are many theories on why marijuana has been linked to a lower body mass index, and we’ll be sharing these theories in the first half of this article.
In addition to sharing these theories, we’re also going to take a look at something that wasn’t explored much in the studies we mentioned above: cannabis strains and your appetite. If you’ve tried a variety of cannabis strains, you probably know that some of them increase appetite. But not all strains make you want to snack– some can actually suppress your appetite. In this second half of this article, we’ll talk about why some strains may suppress your appetite and what you should look for if you’re interested in trying an appetite suppressing strain.
Theories on Cannabis and Lower BMI
At the moment, we don’t know why those reports found that cannabis users had a lower incidence of obesity and a reduced BMI. However, medical experts do have plenty of theories as to why cannabis could be tied to weight loss. A common denominator among many of these theories is the idea that marijuana may not cause weight loss on its own, but may help ease issues that are related to weight gain. Below, we’ll talk about three of these theories, and also one outlier: a theory about cannabis and metabolism.
Cannabis and Stress
Stress is something that’s known to cause weight gain. When we’re under stress, our bodies release more of the stress hormone cortisol, which ramps up our appetite. There are plenty of studies that show people are much more likely to overeat when they’re stressed, as well as studies that show people tend to reach for not-so-healthy comfort foods when they’re stressed.
Many cannabis users say that marijuana can help with anxiety and stress. And there are also some studies that show cannabis may help ease these issues. So, some people theorize that cannabis may help cannabis users manage their stress levels, which in turn may curb overeating.
Cannabis and Sleep
Poor sleep is frustrating at the moment and it can leave you feeling absolutely exhausted the next day. Then, as if that weren’t enough, poor sleep is also known to be a factor in weight gain. A lack of proper sleep can actually make your metabolism slower. Then, feeling exhausted throughout the day also tends to make us overeat, since our bodies crave energy to stay awake.
There have been studies that show cannabis may improve sleep issues like insomnia (and the CBD in cannabis in particular). There’s also some evidence that cannabis may help reduce other issues that impair our sleep, like stress and pain. This has led some to theorize that marijuana users may have better overall sleep health, which could help them avoid gaining weight due to sleep deprivation.
Cannabis and Mobility
Making sure you stay active is important for maintaining a healthy weight. But for some people with mobility issues, it can be hard to stay active. However, there’s some evidence that medical marijuana may ease pain and stiffness, which has led some people to theorize that cannabis may help people with mobility issues get more active and stay more fit.
Cannabis and Metabolism
Lastly, we have one theory about cannabis and weight loss that isn’t related to improving issues that cause weight gain. Some scientists have hypothesized that cannabis could directly impact our metabolism. When you use cannabis, it interacts with the endocannabinoid system. And research shows that cannabis interacts with the CB1 receptors within our bodies, which affect metabolism and food intake. While more research is needed, there’s some evidence that cannabis may increase metabolism and reduce energy storage, leading to a lower BMI.
Cannabis and Appetite
Now that we’ve talked about all these theories, let’s move on to something people are more sure about: cannabis and appetite. If you know anything about cannabis, you know that it can affect your appetite. You don’t need to conduct a scientific study to know that marijuana can make you hungry– pretty much every cannabis user could tell you that. Cannabis’s ability to increase appetite is widely known, even among people who don’t use cannabis. But while most people know that cannabis can increase your appetite, far fewer people know that it can also suppress your appetite.
All cannabis strains are not alike. There are many, many cannabis strains and each has its own unique makeup, which affects how it can make you feel. Just like some strains might make you feel energized while others make you feel sleepy, some strains can make you feel hungry while others dampen your appetite. There are two major aspects of a strain to look for if you want to know how it will affect your appetite: its cannabinoids and terpenes.
Cannabinoids and Appetite
The two most well-known cannabinoids in cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is famously responsible for cannabis’s psychoactive effects, but THC does more than just provide a euphoric feeling. THC can have many effects, including increasing your appetite. It’s thought that high THC low CBD strains stimulate appetite because THC activates our CB1 receptors, which affect our appetite. That ratio of THC to CBD is important since CBD affects how THC works within the body. CBD is thought to dampen the effects of THC. So a strain with a balanced THC to CBD ratio or a high CBD low THC strain generally won’t stimulate the appetite nearly as much as a high THC low CBD strain would.
A lesser-known cannabinoid that can affect appetite is tetrahydrocannabivarin (THC-V). THC-V has the opposite effect of THC on appetite: it’s appetite suppressing. High THC-V strains are fairly rare, but there are currently more high THC-V strains than ever, as more cultivators are specifically breeding strains to be high in THC-V. If you’re interested in trying a high THC-V strain, know that African Sativas (such as Durban Poison) tend to be the highest in THC-V.
Terpenes and Appetite
Another element that affects a strain’s performance is its terpene profile. Terpenes are thought to play a major role in how cannabis makes you feel. For example, some terpenes are known to help you relax, while others are energizing. Then, one terpene, in particular, is known to have a noticeable impact on appetite: humulene.
Humulene, also known as alpha-caryophyllene, is an earthy, spicy terpene that’s commonly found in cannabis. It’s also found in many other plants, such as hops, sage, ginger, and ginseng. There has been a lot of research done on humulene, which has been used in holistic medicine for centuries. This research has found that humulene has anti-inflammatory properties and antibacterial properties and that it’s an effective appetite suppressant.
Humulene is commonly found in cannabis but isn’t found in high amounts. So if you’re interested in trying a strain that’s high in humulene, know that a strain with humulene as its third most dominant terpene is about as high as you’ll find. Also, if you’re interested in humulene’s appetite-suppressing effect, remember that terpenes aren’t the only thing in cannabis that affect appetite. THC to CBD ratio and THC-V content can also make a major difference, so be sure to be mindful of that if you’re looking for a strain to dampen your appetite. Also, if you are specifically looking for an appetite suppressing strain, remember that you can always as a staff member at Essence Dispensary for a personalized product recommendation.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis and Weight Loss
There is some evidence that cannabis may play a role in having a lower BMI and there are some strains that are known to suppress appetite. But with that said, looking to using cannabis as a way to lose weight is probably not the best strategy. The initial research about cannabis and lower body weights isn’t conclusive. And at the end of the day, eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise is the only proven way to manage your weight long-term. Of course, an appetite suppressing cannabis strain could be helpful if you’re watching your calorie intake while on a weight loss journey. But it’s probably not the best idea to solely rely on smoking marijuana to help you lose weight.