As science continues to build positive links between cannabis and an ever-growing number of symptoms, anecdotal evidence continues to provide more food for thought in terms of just how many conditions the drug can help with.
It’s common knowledge that cannabis can help an appetite. But is there a world where weed can suppress appetites and aid weight loss?
What the Studies Show
An American Journal of Epidemiology study from 2011 examined 50,736 people and found that those who do not use cannabis have a higher rate of obesity than people who use cannabis at least three days a week. Obesity rates in cannabis users sat at 16%, while 22% of non-users were classed as obese. More recently, a meta-analysis from 2018 showed cannabis users as having a lower body-mass-index, despite a higher caloric intake.
These results alone are enough to start a conversation about how cannabis might effectively be used to control weight.
Cannabis and Weight Loss – Possible Connections
Studies have yet to explain why this phenomenon exists. And are unable to establish clear and direct links between cannabis use and weight loss. Although, some have considered that cannabis users are less likely to consume alcohol. Reducing the intake of so-called ‘empty calories. In addition, cannabis is known to aid sleep – another critical factor in determining body weight. Leptin is the hormone in the body that signals you to stop eating. Sleep deprivation leads to lower levels of Leptin.
As cannabis is often used – and nowadays even prescribed – to reduce stress and anxiety, one could imply a link between cannabis use and the lowering of cortisol levels which stimulate cravings for specific food types. Cannabis can also increase activity levels in some users. Although this may vary by strain and individual (a heavy indica doesn’t inspire me to run many laps). As well as lessening inflammation, which could help with mobility.
The most significant factor, which remains relatively unexplored, might be the relationship between THC and metabolism. There is some evidence suggesting that cannabis use can boost metabolism, which would result in a lower BMI in users.
This 2018 article suggests “cannabis use reduces the effects of an elevated ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids on endocannabinoid tone”. These elevated ratios are responsible for a strong contribution to metabolic dysregulation associated with the modern diet.
This seems like a strange contrast to the increased appetite for sugars and carbohydrates many people experience due to cannabis use.
The Effects of THC, CBD, and THCV on Body Weight
THC is known to cause hunger and has been widely recommended as an appetite stimulant. CBD, however, seems to counter some effects of THC. As such it could provide enough balance to cancel out some of those cravings, perhaps due to its effectiveness as a CB1 blocker.
CB1 is a receptor in the endocannabinoid system, which is associated with various effects including appetite regulation.
A quick online search returns recommendations of the best strains for weight loss. Typically highlighting cannabis strains with a high CBD content or a higher concentration of the cannabinoid THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin). THCV lacks the psychoactive effects of THC, and in rodent studies, at least, THCV was found to increase satiety, decrease appetite, and boost energy metabolism. These results certainly seem to suggest a positive link between certain strains of cannabis and weight control. But THCV remains a relatively under-researched quantity.
Despite this, one study carried out earlier in 2021 involved giving participants a proprietary hemp extract that contained THCV, CBD, CBDV, and other cannabinoids and yielded notable results – participants in the study lost up to 22lbs over 90 days, compared to placebo recipients who either gained weight or so no change.
Will I Lose Weight Smoking Cannabis?
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as “use cannabis, and the pounds will melt away” – although The Cannabis Diet has a nice ring to it! Despite some positive studies suggesting cannabis may be a factor in lower levels of obesity, science has yet to provide conclusive proof or explicit links to why.
Preliminary testing suggests that THCV is potentially beneficial in controlling appetite and weight loss, but further scientific investigation is required before any concrete conclusions are reached or recommendations are made.
Until then, stick to food with lower calories and exercise regularly. If you get the munchies, choose an apple over Doritos and go for a brisk walk. That way, you can say that smoking cannabis is helping you lose weight!