Obesity and Cannabis Use: Results From 2 Representative National Surveys
A new study from French researchers suggests it may be time to ditch the stereotypical image of pot smokers as inactive food munchers. In their investigation, the scientists found cannabis users are skinner than their non-pot smoking counterparts.
According to the study, Obesity and Cannabis Use: Results From 2 Representative National Surveys...”the association of cannabis use with weight in the general population is not known.”
When researchers looked at obesity prevalence in marijuana smokers they assumed they would find high obesity rates.
Instead, they found the opposite, leading them look at two separate survey studies.
The finding, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found the adjusted prevalence of obesity really was much lower for pot smokers who admitted to use three days a week, compared to non-pot smokers. The researchers say cannabis users are skinnier than people who don’t smoke pot, perhaps from some chemical, rather than other confounders such as activity level of tobacco use.
According to Dr. Yann Le Strat, a psychiatrist at Louis-Mourier Hospital in Colombes, France and co-author of the report the research, didn’t pinpoint why cannabis users are thinner.
“Our findings are too preliminary, he says, But there are a lot of different substances in cannabis. The observed association may be due to the effects of one of them."
In the two studies - the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; 2001–2002) and the National Comorbidity Survey–Replication (NCS-R; 2001–2003 – the researchers also adjusted for sex and age of the adults who were in the U.S. and over age 18, trying to rule out any and every confounding factor to explain the finding.
The researchers say the effect of cannabis on appetite has been extensively studied. Until now, no study has shown whether cannabis use could lead to obesity, though that’s what they scientists expected they would find.
The stereotypical image of a couch potato, munching on snacks associated with marijuana use may need to be re-evaluated, said Andrea Giancoli, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, who also warns that the study is very preliminary and should not be interpreted to mean pot can help people lost weight.
Let Strat, who is also an adjunct scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto said, "The take-home message is certainly not ’smoke cannabis, it will help you lose weight
The possibility that cannabis is associated with a lower risk of obesity remains an interesting hypothesis, but certainly does not counterbalance its negative effects on health and mental health."
In the meantime, researchers haven’t given up on understanding how pot affects the brain where most cannabis receptors are located. Cannabis might have a future medical application for obesity treatment, pending more studies.
The role of cannabis and endocannabinoids in appetite regulation has been extensively studied, but the association of cannabis use with weight in the general population is not known. The authors used data from 2 representative epidemiologic studies of US adults aged 18 years or older, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; 2001–2002) and the National Comorbidity Survey–Replication (NCS-R; 2001–2003), to estimate the prevalence of obesity as a function of cannabis use. The adjusted prevalences of obesity in the NESARC and the NCS-R were 22.0% and 25.3%, respectively, among participants reporting no use of cannabis in the past 12 months and 14.3% and 17.2%, respectively, among participants reporting the use of cannabis at least 3 days per week. These differences were not accounted for by tobacco smoking status. Additionally, after adjustment for sex and age, the use of cannabis was associated with body mass index differences in both samples. The authors conclude that the prevalence of obesity is lower in cannabis users than in nonusers.
Yann Le Strat* and Bernard Le Foll