Over the past couple months, a series of studies have slowly dismantled the myth of the typical cannabis user—a stoner slob prone to eating an inordinate amount of “munchies.” Cannabis does not make you lazy, and the states with legalized marijuana are the healthiest in the nation. In addition, a study from the University of Colorado demonstrated how marijuana can motivate you to exercise.
But a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology shows that people who use marijuana tend to weigh less. Omayma Alshaarawy, an assistant professor of family medicine at Michigan State University, was lead author on the study. Her findings demonstrated that over time marijuana users generally gain less weight than non-cannabis users.
“Over a three-year period, all participants showed a weight increase, but interestingly, those who used marijuana had less of an increase compared to those that never used,” Alshaarawy told Futurology. “Our study builds on mounting evidence that this opposite effect occurs.”
“We found that users, even those who just started, were more likely to be at a normal, healthier weight and stay at that weight,” she added. “Only 15 percent of persistent users were considered obese compared to 20 percent of non-users.”
To conduct the research, scientists examined data from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions while also examining the Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 33,000 participants, all ages 18 or older. When comparing the numbers, they found a two-pound difference between users and non-users, which Alshaarawy says is prevalent given the sample size.
How cannabis stimulated this type of decrease in weight gain amongst users is up for debate.
“It could be something that’s more behavioral like someone becoming more conscious of their food intake as they worry about the munchies after cannabis use and gaining weight,” Alshaarawy said. “Or it could be the cannabis use itself, which can modify how certain cells, or receptors, respond in the body and can ultimately affect weight gain. More research needs to be done.”