So Much for the Munchies! Everything You Think You Knew About Pot And Weight Might Be Wrong

So much for the munchies. Recently published data from Canada shows that a steady diet of cannabis is actually associated with smaller waistlines.

Quebec researchers assessed body mass indexes in a cohort of 786 Inuit (Arctic aboriginal) adults aged 18 to 74. Over half of the subjects in the sample (57.4 percent) reported having used cannabis within the past year. On average, those adults who consumed cannabis possessed a significantly lower body mass index (BMI: 26.8) as compared to those with no history of pot use (BMI: 28.6). Marijuana users also possessed lower percentages of body fat mass (25 percent) compared to non-users (28 percent).

In addition, pot smokers possessed lower fasting insulin levels compared to non-users—an indicator that they were at a lower risk for developing diabetes.

The researchers’ findings appeared in the journal Obesity.

The study is not the first to link cannabis use with lower incidences of obesity and diabetes.

In 2011, French researchers analyzed data from a group of over 50,000 U.S. adults, finding: "The prevalence of obesity was significantly lower in cannabis users than in nonusers.” Respondents who reported using the substance most often (three days per week or more) were least likely to be obese compared to those who reported no cannabis use in the past 12 months.

More recently, data published in the British Medical Journal in 2012 reported that adults with a history of marijuana use have a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and possess a lower risk of contracting the disease than those with no history of consumption. This decreased risk remained present even after investigators adjusted for potentially confounding social variables (ethnicity, level of physical activity, etc.) and despite both users and non-users sharing a similar family history of the disease.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston similarly determined that subjects who regularly consume pot possess favorable indices related to diabetic control as compared to occasional consumers or non-users of the substance.

Investigators reported, "[S]ubjects who reported using marijuana in the past month had lower levels of fasting insulin and HOMA-IR [insulin resistance], as well as smaller waist circumference and higher levels of HDL-C [high-density lipoprotein or 'good' cholesterol]. These associations were not as strong among those who reported using marijuana at least once, but not in the past 30 days—suggesting that the impact of marijuana use on insulin and insulin resistance exists during periods of recent use."

This association between cannabis use and diabetes was again reaffirmed in a 2015 meta-analysis published in the journal Epidemiology, which concluded, “[T]here now is a more stable evidence base for new lines of clinical translational research on a possibly protective...cannabis smoking-diabetes mellitus association suggested in prior research.”

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