The Science Behind Marijuana & Metabolism


New research is pointing to interesting correlations between cannabinoids, metabolism, and belly fat. Thanks to what we call “the munchies,” stoners are prone to eating more calories per day than non-smokers, but that overage doesn’t reflect in the average pot user’s BMI or waistline. One of the prevailing theories to explain this anomaly has to do with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)—a network of cell receptors in located throughout the brain and body—that stimulate areas of the brain in charge of movement, mood, and pleasure. Obesity, some cannabis researchers suggest, may be a result of a dysfunctional ECS since it is both in charge of the feeling of pleasure from food, and the regulation of hormones and blood sugar after food consumption.

For example, eating a Lay’s potato chip sends a message to the brain, which then communicates with the gut, where intestinal receptors are told to produce endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids, like anandamide, are chemicals produced by the body, while phytocannabinoids, like THC, are those produced by the cannabis plant. The two compounds are nearly identical to each other and therefore attach to the same receptors. These compounds help ramp up the appetite of the chip-eater for more fat-laden foods, making “betcha can’t eat just one,” less of cute catch phrase and more of a biological certainty.

So, if THC starts the bingeing process, why do stoners eat more and weigh less? Experiments conducted on laboratory rats suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) might be the key to restoring healthy metabolic function in the face of THC.

Researchers at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Reading found this when they treated male rats with various cannabinoids to see how each would affect the appetite and consumption behaviors of their tiny subjects. What they observed was that while THC increased the rats’ appetites, the effects were then mitigated by the administration of CBD. That study is a great example of how cannabinoid studies are essential to clear up the misconceptions of how marijuana affects the body, while also illustrating how extravagantly complex and nuanced the ECS is.

Want to learn more about cannabinoids and your metabolism? The following are just three of the many studies that show results relating to cannabis and its impact on body mass, belly fat, and metabolic function.

1. One of the most quoted studies depicting the odd science behind marijuana use, diet, body mass index, and cardiovascular risk factors was published in 2006 by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

2. In 2015, the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami found that marijuana users are 54% less likely to experience metabolic syndrome. That is, they show fewer cases of increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, all of which increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

3. This year, a study published by the Oregon Health and Science University found that heavy cannabis users have an average BMI of 26.7 kg/m while the non-user are an average 28.4 kg/m despite consuming fewer calories.

July 24, 2017

by Alana Armstrong

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Alana Armstrong writes about cannabis, marijuana, pot, weed, and whatever else you might call it. As a newly-minted ACMPR patient, she gained first-hand experience of the amazing benefits cannabis; now she is a passionate advocate for legalization and entrepreneurship. While she stills continues to hypothesize about why the collaboration between Vanessa Beecroft and Kanye matters, her mission is now re-focused on the Green Rush in Canada and the US


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