If there is one aspect of marijuana that most people seem to agree on, it is that food always seems to taste better when we’re high. Anyone who has ever used the herb understands that it comes with a delightful little side effect called the munchies, which has a way of making even the weirdest cuisine wildly appealing. If we’re being honest, this spawns a lot of fun for us in our early years. Getting high and then showing up at the front door of a Golden Corral to tear their buffet to pieces is nothing short of legendary. But as we get older, our metabolism starts to slow down, and it isn’t long before we see our girlish figures and strong, chiseled features begin to go soft.
But one doesn’t need to be a marijuana user to experience, first hand, the struggle of living in this fast food nation known as the United States. Considering that last year Americans spent as much on Taco Bell as they did on marijuana, it’s plain to see that being fat in this part of the world is just easier.
Still, it might not have to be this way.
There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating how marijuana might actually help defend our bodies against excessive weight gain. Believe it or not, these studies have shown that regular cannabis users often have a lower BMI, smaller waists and lower fasting insulin levels – all of the makings of weight loss.
No, this isn’t more pro-pot propaganda.
There is enough buzz surrounding this phenomenon that the federal government has decided to cough up nearly $2 million to learn more about how weed might help solve the national weight problem. A branch of the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) recently awarded the University of California, Riverside, School of Medicine a five-year grant to “identify novel gut-brain endocannabinoid signaling pathways that control feeding behavior and become impaired in obesity.” In other words, Uncle Sam is interested in finding out how cannabis might keep Americans from supersizing themselves to death.
“Our work, which will be done on a mouse model, will support the discovery and development of novel therapeutic strategies to safely treat obesity and related metabolic disorders,” Nicholas DiPatrizio, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences at UCR, said in an emailed statement. “Currently, a critical barrier to effective treatment of obesity is a lack of reliable therapeutic options.”
Nearly two-thirds of the population is either overweight or suffering from full-blown obesity because of their savage love affair with what is referred to as a “Western Diet.” This is a nutritional scheme typically characterized by high intakes of red meat, fried foods, eggs and potatoes – all of the fare that most Americans enjoy regularly.
But is there really something to the idea that marijuana might be able to counter a less than healthy diet?
Well, one of the latest studies on the subject, one conducted by Michigan State University, shows that cannabis users are more likely to maintain a healthy weight than non-users. There wasn’t a significant difference – around 5 percent – but there was definitely something there showing how cannabinoids play a role in keeping us trim.
Furthermore, one of our journalists wrote last year about how marijuana helped them lose 50 pounds. While impressive, no doubt, the article also stated that such a significant loss couldn’t have been accomplished without proper diet and exercise.
On the flipside, cannabis has been known to assist in weight gain.
Studies have shown that marijuana’s effect as an appetite stimulant (munchies) can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions, like cancer and AIDS wasting syndrome, keep weight on as opposed to losing it.
Finding the balance in the weight gain vs. loss elements of cannabinoids is what researchers hope to learn more about in the next several years.
“What are the specific components in the Western diet that at the molecular level impact gut-brain endocannabinoid system signaling and diet-induced obesity?” DiPatrizio said. “We will work to identify these components.”