Updated on September 18, 2018.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
We all envy that one friend who eats more than us but never has to worry about gaining weight. Metabolism is a deciding factor that when befriended could give you your dream figure. We all begin to work our way through finding ways to improve our metabolism to get back in shape. Choosing the right food can be a great step towards good metabolism. But there might be an easier way.
Marijuana has been consumed for both medical as well as recreational purposes across the world. The increasing interest in this plant is due to the fact that it brings almost every dream to reality. And those dreams could also include your dream figure.
Metabolism and Your Weight
The chemical reactions that occur in your body that keeps you functioning and living are called metabolism. The entire process that happens inside a human body to make use of external factors and resources to make energy for the various process of our body comes under this term. Metabolism along with hormone levels, quality of sleep, fat distribution etc. aids in weight loss or gain. Stating directly that better metabolism means a thinner figure may be wrong. But a good metabolism can be an aid to weight loss and a healthy body.
Now, can cannabis increase our metabolism is the question that we seek an answer for here? A study claims that cannabis consumers tend to consume about 600 calories more in comparison to an average person. The best part is it does not necessarily turn into fat in these cases. Apart from the various effects, such as sleepiness, that marijuana can have on an individual a phenomenon called “the munchies” or unremitting hunger that takes you to raid your fridge.
Why Do We Feel Hungry After Cannabis Consumption?
ECH or endocannabinoid system is a cell receptor network in your body. When a person feels hungry an endocannabinoid called “anandamide” is released into the system. THC releases the same while consuming marijuana giving us a craving for food.
A survey was conducted involving 786 adults in an Inuit community where more than half the population were reported to be frequent users of cannabis. The researchers in Canada then correlated frequent use with low BMI, low-fat percentages as well as lower fasting insulin levels. This is an addition to various other studies such as the ones published by the American Journal of Science in the year 2013 states the effects of cannabis on metabolism. The journal also reported the low density of obese population among frequent users who in fact have higher calorie diets. In particular, a better carbohydrate metabolism was observed in these candidates compared to nonusers. “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,” said Murray Mittleman who is an associate professor from Harvard Medical School and the lead of the study.
But according to Go Ask Alice, which is an online health portal that has been operated by the Health services at Columbia University, there is no direct connection to better metabolism and smokers. In fact, “the munchies” will mean more caloric consumption and the chances of putting on weight is still prevalent. As a suggestion, stocking healthier foods instead of junk foods to counter munchies was added here.
Yet, Go Ask Alice also shared a research that has been conducted on endocannabinoids which are chemicals produced by our body which is similar to marijuana. The researchers suggested that blocking cannabinoids could be related to decreasing chances of developing metabolic syndrome such as high blood pressure, excess body fat especially around the waist and belly, bad cholesterol levels as well as high blood sugar. These metabolic syndromes have been crucial risk factors for developing heart diseases, diabetics, and various other health problems. A research by the University of Miami also reported that cannabis consumers showed about 54% less probability of suffering from metabolic syndromes in comparison to non-users.
The Effects of THC and CBD
THC is the substance that substitutes for the natural endocannabinoids causing us to feel hungry. But CBD, on the other hand, has been observed to deactivate these receptors. A research by the School of Pharmacy in Berkshire’s university details the effects of different cannabinoids on rodent`s appetite. While CBN made the rats eat more and CBG had no effect on the appetite CBD controlled the rats from over consuming. Other researches such as by scientist in Budapest has related consumption of CBD to reduce fat build-up in arteries and decreased body weight.
Apart from CBD, another reason justifying the relation of marijuana consumption to fighting obesity was shared by Daniele Piomelli who is a professor of pharmacology at the University of California. In an interview with TIME, he explains that lower obesity in regular marijuana consumers could be because of the weakening of the CB1 receptors. Failure to respond to these cannabis-like molecules nullifies the effect of the same on an individual which keeps them away from becoming obese.
The Strain Matters
Given that THC and CBD have opposite effects that strain you use could also be a great deciding factor on which side of the debate to take. Your dispensary might be growing auto-flowering cannabis, but the balance of these compounds needs to be factored in to experience the effects too. Some mild strains such as one to one is a great starter. This has a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD which means you get a mild high and optimized benefits for your metabolism. Similarly, Avidekel brings about 16% CBD levels and low THC levels and Harlequin shows a 5: 2 ratio of CBD to THC. You can also opt for various hybrid cannabis strains like Strawberry Kush. These have more Sativa genetics and produce more stimulation. These strains could be a way of enhancing your overall metabolism along with giving a mild high.
The most important point to remember here is there has been no strong evidence or study that has directly indicated consumption of cannabis can lead to better metabolism. While there are various studies that might build the background for the same, a strong take is currently unavailable. Overall it can be seen that these molecules increase the energy expenditure in the cells of the body which increase metabolism. But whether such effects can be seen uniformly in all is still a question.
Doctors are yet to share their thoughts on this debate which keeps us wondering, should this be our next weight loss step? Well, you should keep your exercises and diets on track and depend on the same instead of completely shifting the weight on to marijuana. Individual tolerance to marijuana is what will finally determine what kind of effects can be expected from consuming the same.