Munchies. It’s an ongoing punchline by and about marijuana enthusiasts and it’s not all folklore. Marijuana, or more properly called, cannabis can affect the mechanisms that trigger hunger in our brain. Don’t assume that is a bad thing. In fact, it may just help you stay lean and mean … and high as well, if you want.
Let’s start with some basic body chemistry. The pancreas creates insulin, a hormone that moderates blood sugar levels. It helps use sugar/glucose from carbohydrates for instant energy or stored as fat for later. That is the very process cannabis can influence, according to a growing body of research. It begins at a micro level.
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THC is the compound cannabis that causes people to be “high.” While it may be the most famous cannabinoid, there are more than 100 in existence and they occur naturally in our bodies as endocannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system is present in all vertebrate animals and helps regulate sleep, energy, appetite and metabolism just to name a few. It helps create balance or homeostasis at a cellular level. This is why marijuana as medicine can be so effective. It is seen not an invader but as a familiar substance to the body’s cannabinoid receptors and works like a lock and key.
But getting leaner by using cannabis? Are you serious? This is not just a pipe dream. Researchers studying diabetes, metabolism and obesity have become increasingly interested in how cannabis may be an effective therapy for human systems out of balance.
While much of this research has been conducted on rats, human cannabis users have been shown to have significantly lower obesity rates and have trimmer waistlines than non-users. The cannabinoid THCV, has also been shown to suppress appetite. These findings have been further validated in studies with huge sample sizes.
Age, sex and race do not seem to matter; the effect is across the board. This has led to a deeper look and call for more research into how the endocannabinoid system may be manipulated to help people with obesity and blood sugar metabolism.
The strange, good news does not end there. Cannabis users have also been shown to have lower cholesterol and triglycerides in their blood. The makers of statin drugs popular in common therapy for these conditions are watching these developments closely.
Jake Felice, a naturopath working in Washington State and California, has long been an advocate for appropriate cannabis therapy. While there is much promising research, Felice reminds patients:
“While cannabis has not been shown to be a weight loss agent, it is associated with lower BMI (body mass index) and can have a positive influence on the body’s ability to regulate sugar levels. Additionally, cannabis can positively affect stress hormones associated with weight gain.”
Cannabis alone will not help you to have a lower BMI if you don’t exercise and have unhealthy eating habits. But, if researchers are right, it can help people to be more in balance and aid in maintaining a healthy body weight.
Granted, we have a long way still to go on research, but stay tuned. Maybe one day the advice from the Surgeon General will be, “Just Say Grow.”