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Does Smoking Weed Really Make You Lose Weight?

Whether or not you’ve ever smoked weed, you’ve probably heard of the munchies — that overpowering drive to eat all the snacks after smoking weed.

But others swear that smoking weed not only makes them eat less, but also makes them lose weight.

Using marijuana may be associated with lower body weight, but it’s not as straightforward as it sounds.

Here’s a look at what we do and don’t know about the relationship between smoking weed and weight loss.

A lot of the noise around smoking weed for weight loss comes from a 2011 review of two surveys. The authors concluded that rates of obesity were higher among people who reported not using marijuana compared to rates among those who used marijuana at least 3 days a week.

Shortly before those results were published, a study examining the association between cannabis and obesity in young people made similar conclusions.

Most recently, a meta-analysis of the relationship between cannabis use and body mass index (BMI) showed that cannabis users had significantly lower BMIs and obesity rates but an increased calorie intake.

It’s important to remember that this research simply suggests there are some links between marijuana use and lower body weight. It’s unclear what’s behind this link, and there’s not enough evidence to say that using marijuana is an effective way to lose weight. Plus, using marijuana comes with its own risks and downsides (more on this later).

Experts have a few theories on why marijuana use is linked to reduced BMI and lower risks of obesity.

It can increase mobility

When used properly, marijuana may relieve symptoms of pain and stiffness. This means people with mobility issues may find that they can be more active when using marijuana.

It may cause some people to drink less

Some experts suspect that younger people who use marijuana may consume less alcohol than those who don’t. This means they’re not taking in calories from alcoholic drinks, which could contribute to lower BMIs.

It can lower stress

Stress eating is a very real thing. Studies show that people are more likely to overeat and reach for comfort foods when stressed.

It’s no secret that weed can ease anxiety and help calm you when you’re feeling stressed. Some believe that this might replace stress eating for some people.

It may improve sleep

Poor sleep can be a factor in weight gain. There’s some evidence that cannabis may improve insomnia. Plus, it may help reduce stress and pain, two of the main culprits behind poor sleep.

It may boost metabolism

There’s some evidence that cannabis interacts with cannabinoid receptor 1 , which plays a role in metabolism and food intake. High amounts of cannabis appear to increase metabolism and reduce energy storage, resulting in a lower BMI.

Using marijuana doesn’t cause sudden weight loss. But experts believe it may help with some underlying factors that can contribute to weight gain in some people.

Much more research is needed to fully understand the link between marijuana use and weight.

The research around marijuana and weight loss catches some people off guard because of the long-standing association between marijuana and major snacking.

Indeed, a recent study showed an increase in sales of junk food, which the authors largely defined as chips, cookies, and ice cream, in U.S. states where marijuana is now legal.

How can people be eating more and losing weight while smoking weed? Researchers are still trying to figure out the specifics, but a balancing act between two major cannabinoids in marijuana might offer some explanation.

THC, the psychoactive compound that produces weed’s “high,” has been shown to trigger hunger. It’s the reason why people sometimes use cannabis as an appetite stimulant.

CBD, on the other hand, seems to counteract certain effects of THC, including its appetite-boosting and mood-altering effects.

At first glance, the research might seem to suggest that smoking weed is a good way to lose weight. But there’s no evidence that using marijuana directly causes weight loss.

It might contribute indirectly by helping with certain issues, including chronic pain and poor sleep, that can contribute to higher body weight.

Plus, using marijuana isn’t without risks, especially if you smoke it.

Marijuana smoke contains many of the same irritants, toxins, and cancer-causing agents as tobacco smoke, according to the American Lung Association.

And because weed smokers inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in longer, they’re exposed to more tar per breath than cigarette smokers.

Over time, smoking weed damages your lungs and airways, reducing respiratory function and increasing your risk for lung infections and even lung cancer.

It can also weaken your immune system, which interferes with your body’s ability to fight disease.

Then there’s the whole issue of misuse and dependence. Up to 30 percent of users have some degree of marijuana use disorder, according to recent data. Younger people are especially at risk, particularly people who use marijuana before the age of 18.

Even though there’s some evidence that smoking weed may affect weight, a lot more research is needed.

Plus, smoking still does more harm than good, even if it’s just marijuana. Using marijuana through nonsmoking methods may offer some health benefits, but it’s not recommended for weight loss.

Last medically reviewed on October 30, 2019

Yes, there's some evidence linking marijuana use to lower body weight, but it's not that simple.

Study: Why Pot Smokers Are Skinnier

Marijuana users had smaller waists and scored higher across several measures of blood sugar regulation.

PROBLEM: “Marijuana use is associated with an acute increase in caloric intake,” goes the clinical jargon for popular lore. Still despite eating more while high (by some measures, over 600 extra calories per day), marijuana users’ extra intake doesn’t seem to be reflected in increased BMI. Indeed, studies have identified a reduced prevalence of obesity in the pot smoking community.

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METHODOLOGY: Researchers at the University of Nebraska, the Harvard School of Public Health, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of over 4,600 adults. About 12 percent of the participants self-identified as current marijuana users, and another 42 percent reported having used the drug in the past. The participants were tested for various measures of blood sugar control: their fasting insulin and glucose levels; insulin resistance; cholesterol levels; and waist circumference.

RESULTS: Current marijuana users had significantly smaller waist circumference than participants who had never used marijuana, even after adjusting for factors like age, sex, tobacco and alcohol use, and physical activity levels. They also had higher levels of HDL (“good cholesterol”). The most significant differences between those who smoked marijuana and those who never or no longer did was that current smokers’ insulin levels were reduced by 16 percent and their insulin resistance (a condition in which the body has trouble absorbing glucose from the bloodstream) was reduced by 17 percent.

People who had previously used marijuana, but not in the past thirty days, tended to have similar outcomes, but to a much lesser degree. In addition, none of these measures were impacted by how much marijuana people reported smoking.

IMPLICATIONS: Although they’re not sure exactly how it happens, write the authors, these findings suggest that marijuana somehow works to improve insulin control, regulating body weight and perhaps explaining why marijuana users have a lower incidence of diabetes. Adding to the big questions — “can weed can treat obesity?” and “marijuana makes you skinny?!” — is the possibility that marijuana might be useful in helping people to manage their blood sugar.

Marijuana users had smaller waists and scored higher across several measures of blood sugar regulation.