Could Marijuana Help in Weight Loss?

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In a stunning look at the medicinal properties of marijuana use, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found that obesity rates are lowered by roughly one third in those who smoke three times weekly. The research included 52,000 participants, with findings concluding that 22% of those who did not smoke marijuana were obese, compared with just 14% of the regular marijuana smokers.

The “munchies” (increase in appetite after smoking marijuana) are very real. Just ask anyone who smokes marijuana on a regular basis. It’s this “benefit” of increased appetite that makes marijuana an effective treatment for people suffering from the lack of appetite so common with cancer, AIDS, and other diseases. So, how could any study find that marijuana smokers are less likely to be obese?

Two surveys were analyzed for the American Journal of Epidemiology study. Each showed that pot smokers were less likely to be obese. But, before you try and track down marijuana for your next weight loss cure, read on.

There are many potential explanations for the findings. Firstly, as Maia Szalavitz with TIME reports, pot-free people could be substituting food for pot as their “unhealthy” habit. Another potential explanation, that some pot smokers are smoking because they are sick. Diseases like cancer and AIDS often result in a lower-than-normal body weight.

Finally, there’s the explanation that Szalavitz fails to consider: that many marijuana smokers don’t use their recreational drug of choice to gorge themselves at every chance. Perhaps marijuana smokers are cognizant of the fact that smoking causes the munchies and so they act accordingly – maybe allowing some extra indulgence while “high” but reverting to a more healthful lifestyle in between “sessions.”

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