Can Marijuana Make You Gain Weight?
- Nutrition for Weight Loss
- Gaining Weight
A prevailing stereotype of marijuana users is that they always have the munchies. A body of evidence suggests that long-term cannabis use can lead to weight gain, particularly in men. With that being said, its effects on weight differ by plant strain, dose, route of administration, and frequency of use.
How Marijuana Influences Weight Gain
Different strains of marijuana will have varying concentrations of cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), and terpenes. These psychoactive chemicals act on CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain that make up the endocannabinoid system, which plays a key role in regulating appetite, stress, and pain sensations, among a host of other factors that impact weight gain.
Whether smoked or eaten, cannabis affects the neurobiological circuits that control appetite, causing a temporary increase in the “munchies”. According to a 2015 study from the Yale University School of Medicine, activation of the CB1 receptor acted on by THC increases feeding behaviors and leads to decreased activity of the neurons responsible for feelings of satiety.
The effect is known to be considerable and one that can be used in medical practice to stimulate appetite in people with cancer, advanced HIV infection, and other serious medical conditions.
Appetite stimulation doesn’t inherently translate into weight gain, however. Within the HIV population, marijuana may help stifle weight loss but does little to reverse the wasting that can accompany serious illness.
What this suggests is that appetite stimulation is only part of what triggers weight gain in certain cannabis users.
Effect on Athletic Performance
Cannabis users have been observed to show marked decreases in performance, steadiness, reaction time, and psychomotor performance for up to six hours following use. This can make exercises like rock climbing or heavy-weight lifting more dangerous, a deterrent which, along with the muscle-relaxing properties of particular strains, may promote weight gain simply by decreasing a person’s capacity for exercise.
According to research, THC significantly elevates the resting heart rate (RHR) and blood pressure during and after physical training, decreasing a person’s overall tolerance for exercise.
That said, cannabis has also been shown to decrease pain and to inhibit exercise-induced asthma , which could make it a helpful adjunct to simple exercises that chronically ill patients otherwise couldn’t do.
If many pain patients switch to medical cannabis for pain management in places where it is legal at the state level, it will become important to research these effects more thoroughly.
Even in cases where light exercise may not be negatively impacted by cannabis use, it is still not likely to lead to peak performance.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Peripheral cannabinoid receptors activated by THC are involved in regulating pancreatic function and lipid metabolism. According to research published in 2015 by the American Diabetes Association, compared to non-users, cannabis smokers tend to have a higher percentage of abdominal visceral fat and increased insulin resistance, in addition to lower plasma HDL cholesterol.
It has been suggested, that strains of cannabis that are high to moderately high in THC are more likely to trigger weight gain, particularly among regular users.
Among healthy people who regularly use cannabis, there is a significant difference in how the drug influences weight if you are male or female.
A study conducted in 2015 by researchers at the University of Montreal found that cannabis use triggered significant and consistent weight gain in men, but not in women.
Although the reason for this remains unclear, the scientists suggested that differences in neurobiological targets, as well as general psychology, played a part.
A Word From Verywell
Although the association between weight gain and marijuana use is anything but conclusive, there is enough evidence to suggest that it can influence weight in certain people, especially frequent users who are male, who use cannabis strains higher in THC, or who have other risk factors for obesity or metabolic syndrome.
If you believe you have a marijuana addiction problem, contact the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence at 800-622-2255 for a referral to a treatment center in your area.
Marijuana is known to cause the munchies by stimulating appetite. Research has shown that it can increase weight and body fat in certain people.
Smoking Marijuana May Affect Weight Gain
Whether smoking marijuana contributes to weight gain may depend on how much pot a person smokes, in addition to other factors such the person’s gender, according to a new study.
Smoking marijuana often gives people the munchies — a sudden increase in appetite that can make them eat a lot at once — so researchers wanted to examine whether this drive to eat might mean that people who smoke pot put on extra pounds over time.
The researchers looked at data from young people who had enrolled at age 12 or 13 in a 13-year study on nicotine dependence in teens. When they reached age 20, the 271 men and 319 women were asked whether they had smoked marijuana in the past year, and if so, how often they smoked. The participants were also asked if they smoked cigarettes. Researchers also tracked the participants’ body mass indexes and waist size from ages 17 to 24.
The researchers found that, among the people in the study who smoked marijuana regularly but did not smoke cigarettes, the more often they smoked pot, the more weight they gained. For example, among the men in the study who did not smoke cigarettes, those who smoked marijuana daily gained more weight on average than the men who smoked pot weekly.
“The main finding of our study shows that long-term Cannabis use indeed influences weight gain,” study co-author Didier Jutras-Aswad, a professor at the University of Montreal, said in a statement.
“But above all, we noted that certain factors drastically modify this effect,” including gender, level of marijuana use and cigarette smoking, Jutras-Aswad said. [11 Odd Facts About Marijuana]
For example, among the men in the study, those who smoked both marijuana and cigarettes gained less weight on average than those who smoked marijuana but not cigarettes.
The reason for this finding may be that the nicotine in cigarettes tends to decrease a person’s appetite, said study co-author Emily Dubé, a graduate student at the University of Montreal, told Live Science.
However, it turns out that the women in the study who smoked both marijuana and cigarettes did not gain any less weight than the women who smoked only marijuana.
The researchers don’t know exactly why there may be this difference in how smoking marijuana and cigarettes may affect men’s and women’s weight, they said.
However, it may have something to do with how the THC in marijuana and the nicotine in cigarettes affect the body’s control over hunger in men versus women, Jutras-Aswad said. “We also know that these targets in the brain are modified by hormonal factors that can fluctuate, in particular, during menstrual cycles,” he said.
The study will be published in the August issue of the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior.
Whether smoking marijuana contributes to weight gain may partly depend on how much pot a person smokes, according to a new study.