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Smoking Weed for Weight Loss: Does it Work?

What to know before toking up.

You’ve probably heard that ongoing punchline about how stoners always have the munchies. But is it actually true? Maybe.

Research shows that smoking marijuana does affect the mechanisms that trigger hunger in our brain: receptors in our brain trigger the release of hormones that make us feel famished, causing us to gobble up everything in sight.

But even though there’s evidence to support the Cheetos-munching stoner stereotype, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely true. Other studies have shown that smoking pot doesn’t lead to weight gain.

In fact, people who regularly smoke get high off weed are less likely to be overweight or obese compared to those who don’t, according to a paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. The study included more than 30,000 participants. All put on weight during the three year study, but those who smoked weed gained the fewest pounds. This was determined by comparing Body Mass Index for participants in the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions study.

Researchers tied to that study theorize that cannabis may create cellular changes that impact weight gain.

And this isn’t the only study that indicates stoners may weigh less than people who don’t smoke. A 2011 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that even if weed consumption increases appetite, “people using cannabis are less likely to be obese than people who do not use cannabis.” Other studies indicate that many cannabis users have trimmer waistlines than non-users, as well as lower cholesterol levels. What’s more, these results have proven to be true regardless of sample size or factors like age and gender.

So why else might this be the case? Researchers speculate it’s because of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that causes people to be “high.” To test the link between THC and weight loss, researchers at the University of Calgary examined obese mice and mice at a regular weight, both of which were given THC daily. The researchers found that while THC did not have any effect on the size of the mice who were already at a regular weight, it did cause the obese mice to lose weight. The researchers hypothesized that this was because THC caused changes in the gut microbiome that helped regulate weight loss and digestion.

Other studies in Poland, Italy, Hungary, Canada and the UK have replicated these findings, leading some researchers to conclude that there is “a correlation between cannabis use and reduction in the BMI,” said Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, a Washington-based physician and cannabis researcher. “This association holds even after controlling for other variables,” such as age, gender, or why a person is smoking marijuana to begin with (so for instance, a cancer patient who uses marijuana as a method of pain relief).

That said, there’s also some evidence indicating that marijuana’s effects on weight fluctuation are more complicated than Aggarwal would suggest. Didier Jutras-Aswad, a professor of neuroscience at University of Montreal, has studied how cannabis affects the functions of neurobiological circuits controlling appetite.

“It is known … that cannabis causes temporary increase in appetite,” which can indeed lead to weight gain, he said. Yet he conceded that “as to whether it actually causes weight gain in the long term, the available data is limited.”

It’s important to note that cannabis isn’t a prescription for weight loss: If you don’t exercise and have unhealthy eating habits, then smoking weed probably won’t help you have a lower BMI. Plus, you also want to consider that smoking weed is tied to breathing problems, psychosis, and mania-like symptoms in people with bipolar disorder. In fact, research suggests that smoking marijuana can lead to chronic bronchitis even injure the cell linings on your lungs, according to the American Lung Association.

Bottom line: there’s no evidence suggesting weed will help with your physique goals. The best way to lose weight is by following a diet plan that works for you.

​​Contrary to popular belief, smoking pot doesn't lead to weight gain — according to a few studies. In fact, weed might even help you maintain your weight.

15 Things That Slow Your Metabolism

1. Your Genes

Metabolism is how your body changes food into energy. If your body is slow at burning calories while you rest or sleep, you probably got that from your parents, through your genes.

What you can do: Since you can’t change your genes, focus on your habits. One of the best ways to pep up your metabolism is to get more exercise. Look for ways to sneak more activity into your day.

2. Hormones

A shift in your hormones can put the brakes on your body’s energy use. That can make you tired. Some conditions, like an underactive or overactive thyroid and diabetes, are hormonal diseases that affect your metabolism. Stress also releases hormones that can trigger a slow-down.В

What you can do: If you have a medical condition, keep up with your treatment. And make it a priority to nip stress in the bud.

3. Your Lack of Sleep

Good shut-eye helps your metabolism stay steady. When you toss and turn night after night, it’s harder for your body to use energy well, which can make conditions like diabetes and obesity more likely.В

What you can do: Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. If you’re not there now, try it for a week and see how much better you feel.

4. Strict Diets

How you lose weight matters. If you don’t eat enough, your metabolism switches to slow-mo. Severe diets, especially when you also exercise, teach your body to make do with fewer calories. That can backfire, because your body clings to those calories, which makes it harder to take weight off.

What you can do: Although it may take longer, keep your weight-loss plan realistic, not drastic.

5. Trendy Salt

Sea salt is a darling for foodies and chefs. You’ll find it in top restaurants and gourmet kitchens. But it lacks iodine, which your thyroid needs to manage your metabolism.

What you can do: Just a dash of iodized table salt meets that need. Or enjoy an iodine-rich food, like shrimp.

6. You’re Parched

Without enough H2O, your metabolism can stall. How about a tall, cool glass of water? Some studies show that it helps the body burn energy and fuels weight loss. At any temperature, water also helps you fill up, so you eat less.

What you can do: Sip it throughout the day. You also can eat more foods that are naturally rich in water, such as watermelon or cucumbers.

7. You Drink Decaf

It’s a good option if you like a cup before bedtime. But you’ll miss out on the jolt of caffeine that gets your metabolic motor running. Remember that some research shows coffee can affect blood sugar levels. So you may need to limit it if you have diabetes.

What you can do: If you can’t handle caffeine, lean into the other tips in this slideshow. Many things can help your metabolism, and you’ll want to use as many of them as possible.

8. Not Enough Calcium

You need it for more than your bones. It’s also a key nutrient for a swift metabolism, among the other positive things it does for your body. Many people don’t get enough of it.

What you can do: There are many delicious options! You can get calcium from milk and dairy products, of course. It’s also in many fortified foods (such as cereals, orange juice, and soy or almond milk), canned salmon, turnip greens, kale, and tofu.

9. Your Thermostat Is Set Too High

It’s not always a good idea to heat things up in the bedroom — at least not when it comes to your metabolism. Room temperatures of 75 degrees keep your body from making brown fat, which is loaded with calorie-burning cells.

What you can do: Turning the thermostat down to 66 degrees before bedtime boosts brown-fat levels. When it’s cold outside, taking regular brisk walks also may do that.

10. Your Meds

Some drugs can slow down your metabolism. These include many antidepressants and certain antipsychotics doctors use to treat schizophrenia. Many other medications, like those that slow the heart rate, also can have that effect.

What you can do: Let your doctor know if you think your prescriptions might be a problem. There may be something you could take instead.

11. Cutting Carbs

Sure, easing up on unhealthy carbohydrates can help you manage your weight and burn fat faster. But your body needs them to make insulin. Go low-carb all the time and you make less of this key hormone. Your metabolism stalls and you don’t burn as many calories as you once did.В

What you can do: Get your carbs from fruits, vegetables, and grains that are rich in nutrients, like sweet potatoes and whole wheat flour. They’ll keep your metabolism in check and head off those cravings that can take you off-track.

12. Being Nocturnal

Catching the red-eye flight or working the night shift messes with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Those changes can lead to a sluggish metabolism and other problems like diabetes and obesity.

What you can do: Reset your body clock. If you take a lot of red-eye flights, get a different departure time. If you work at night and can’t change, talk to your doctor about healthy ways you can get on track.

13. Changing Meal Times

When you eat is as important as what you eat.В Skipping meals or grabbing a bite on the go creates social — and metabolic — jet lag. Shifting meal times can wreak havoc with your metabolism and raise your risk for heart disease.

What you can do: Consider a regular mealtime with your family, and stick to it.

14. Chronic Stress

When you are in a stressful situation, your body makes a hormone called cortisol. It’s meant to give you a quick boost of energy. But if you’re stuck in a stressed-out zone, the body thinks you still need to fight, so it keeps making cortisol. High levels of this hormone make it harder for your body to use insulin. That puts the brakes on your metabolism and fuels weight gain.В

What you can do: Find ways you can de-stress. Breathe deep. Do something you love. Find what works for you.

15. A High-Fat Diet

Eating loads of fatty foods like greasy burgers and buttery goodies is never a healthy idea. It changes how your body breaks down foods and nutrients. Your body’s ability to use insulin is affected, too. That’s called insulin resistance, and it’s been linked to obesity and diabetes.В

What you can do: Reach for more fruits and vegetables, and drink more water. Beans, peppers, and shellfish are good options, too.

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American Society for Biochemistry and Microbiology: “Antipsychotics and their adverse metabolic effects.”

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Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 23, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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