DETROIT — Are the munchies a myth?
No, but despite the increased appetite that sometimes comes with using weed, marijuana users are less likely to gain weight despite getting the munchies, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. New evidence from Michigan State University found that those who smoke cannabis weigh less compared to adults who don't.
The research contradicts the common belief that pot users will pack on the pounds as a result of an increased appetite.
“Over a three-year period, all participants showed a weight increase, but interestingly, those who used marijuana had less of an increase compared to those that never used,” said Omayma Alshaarawy, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of family medicine at MSU. “Our study builds on mounting evidence that this opposite effect occurs.”
In fact, findings suggest new and persistent smokers are overall less likely to be overweight or obese.
“We found that users, even those who just started, were more likely to be at a normal, healthier weight and stay at that weight,” she said. “Only 15 percent of persistent users were considered obese compared to 20 percent of non-users.”
Researchers analyzed and compared the body mass index of 33,000 participants, ages 18 and older. Though a relatively small number, they found a 2-pound weight difference among users and non-users.
“An average 2-pound difference doesn’t seem like much, but we found it in more than 30,000 people with all different kinds of behaviors and still got this result,” Alshaarawy said.
So what exactly is keeping marijuana users from tipping the scale? There could be several factors.
“It could be something that’s more behavioral like someone becoming more conscious of their food intake as they worry about the munchies after cannabis use and gaining weight,” she said. “Or it could be the cannabis use itself, which can modify how certain cells, or receptors, respond in the body and can ultimately affect weight gain. More research needs to be done.”
But the study warns cannabis should not be considered nor used as a diet aid.
“There’s too many health concerns around cannabis that far outweigh the potential positive, yet modest, effects it has on weight gain,” she said. “People shouldn’t consider it as a way to maintain or even lose weight.”
View the full study here .