There is some evidence that cannabis use may have a link to lower body weight. However, scientific studies have yet to provide an explanation for why this link exists.
People have long associated cannabis with an ability to stimulate appetite. People who smoke or ingest cannabis report increased feelings hungry, also known as the “munchies.” It may seem counterintuitive that a substance known to increase hunger in people could help a person lose weight.
This article looks at the relationship between cannabis use and weight loss and what the available research says about the topic.
A 2011 review concluded that people who do not use cannabis have higher obesity rates than those who use at least 3 days a week. The report included two surveys with a total of 50,736 respondents.
The prevalence of cannabis users with obesity was 16.1%, compared to non-users, where 22% of the participants had obesity.
An earlier study came to similar conclusions. The 2010 study results suggest that young adult cannabis users are less likely to have obesity or overweight than non-users.
More recent studies also show a similar link. One meta-analysis from 2018 suggests that cannabis users have a reduced body mass index (BMI) and less obesity. The analysis also reveals that cannabis use increased caloric intake.
However, cannabis is not a suitable treatment for obesity. It is important to note that the research on cannabis and weight loss points to a link between cannabis use and lower body weight. Studies have yet to provide an explanation for why this link exists.
Cannabis may have a link to lower BMI and rates of obesity because it:
- may lower alcohol consumption
- increases activity levels in some people
- might affect metabolism
- may help with sleep issues
According to a 2014 article in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, smoking or ingesting cannabis can increase a person’s appetite by stimulating cannabinoid (CB1) receptors in the brain. These receptors release a hormone that increases food intake.
Cannabinoid receptors are naturally present in humans, and cannabinoids, which are compounds in the cannabis plant and include cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), affect humans by attaching to these receptors.
Research in animals also suggests that cannabis may trigger the release of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone.
The short-term side effects of smoking cannabis include:
- changes in mood
- altered senses
- trouble problem-solving and thinking
- memory issues
- altered sense of time
The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicate that hallucinations, psychosis, and delusions are rare but might occur when a person uses exceptionally high doses of cannabis.
Smoking cannabis may have some notable long-term risks. For instance, the American Lung Association explain that the smoke contains many harmful, cancer-causing agents, such as those in tobacco smoke.
People who smoke cannabis also tend to inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than the typical cigarette smoker. Each of these extended inhalations exposes the lungs to more tar. Smoking cannabis can cause unpleasant symptoms, including:
- chronic cough
- excess phlegm production
- acute bronchitis
- air bubbles in the lungs
- air pockets between the lungs and chest wall
Using cannabis can also affect the immune system and increase a person’s risk of lower respiratory tract infections.
Some cannabis users also develop a cannabis use disorder where they build up a cannabis dependence. This can lead to some mild withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 30% of people who smoke cannabis may have cannabis use disorder. People who start smoking cannabis before the age of 18 are more likely to develop this disorder. However, the level of the disorder varies among users.
In younger people, cannabis use can also affect brain development, cause a rapid heart rate, problems with development, and lead to nausea and vomiting.
People with existing mental health issues may experience adverse effects when using cannabis.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a compound in cannabis that produces a high. It may trigger hunger in some people.
However, some research shows that CBD counteracts some of THC’s effects and may help dampen the appetite-stimulating effects of cannabis.
There are no direct studies that show a definitive link between CBD and weight loss. But there is some evidence that points to a relationship between CBD and appetite suppression.
A 2018 study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggests that specific cannabinoid receptor antagonists may help control appetite and obesity. While CBD does not directly block these receptors, it may encourage other molecules to do so.
Other research shows a link between overactive CB receptors, obesity, and metabolic disorders. Since CBD likely contributes to blocking CB1 receptors, it may also help reduce obesity.
While the research on CBD and obesity is interesting, there are limited human studies at this stage.
Some studies even show that CBD may increase appetite. However, this is likely due to the levels of THC in the products used.
Scientists need to carry out more research to understand the role of CBD in weight loss.
Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Cannabis-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws. Check local legislation, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.
While there is some evidence that smoking and using cannabis may affect a person’s weight, there is not enough research to establish a definitive conclusion.
Smoking cannabis also has notable side effects.
Cannabis use is not an effective weight-loss option.