Could marijuana help fight obesity in America?

Marijuana might have earned a reputation for giving people “the munchies”, driving them to crave snack foods while under the influence, but a new study shows that the drug could actually be a surprisingly effective way to help combat the obesity epidemic that is killing Americans.

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Of course, the benefits of marijuana simply cannot be understated; science continues to prove that this particular plant is truly something special.

A study published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics shows that regular marijuana users actually have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who do not use the drug. For the study, researchers from the University of Miami examined data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health. They found that women who used marijuana on a daily basis had a 3.1 percent lower BMI and male users had a 2.7 percent lower BMI than those who do not use marijuana.

This study is not the first one to find such a link. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2013 uncovered how marijuana manipulates the body’s insulin production, transforming the metabolism into a well-oiled machine of sorts to keep obesity at bay. The researchers from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, Omaha, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that current marijuana use was linked to fasting insulin levels that were 16 percent lower. They also discovered significant associations between the use of marijuana and a smaller waist circumference.

Study after study shows link between marijuana use, lower BMI

This is also corroborated by a study that was published in the journal Obesity. The study, which involved more than 700 adults who took part in the Nunavik Inuit Health Survey, revealed that those who smoked marijuana had lower BMI scores than those who did not, and they also had a lower risk of developing diabetes.

States with medical marijuana laws note drops in obesity

Lending further credence to this theory is the fact that some of the nation’s lowest obesity rates can be found in the District of Columbia and Colorado – both of which happen to be places where marijuana use is legal.

A study out of Cornell University and the San Diego State University discovered that passing a medical marijuana law in a state is associated with a drop in the probability of obesity that ranges from 2 to 6 percent, and this effect is believed to be even larger in the long term. This finding held after controlling for economic and social factors, food prices, and policy differences.

This could be due in part to the fact that many medical marijuana prescriptions are written for managing chronic pain. It stands to reason, therefore, that people who were once hampered by pain will become more active once it has been dealt with.

Another issue that could be at play here is a bit of a substitution effect. The passage of medical marijuana laws has been shown to lead to a 3.1 percent drop in the probability of alcohol consumption and a 4.8 percent drop in the probability of binge drinking, which means some people might be skipping calorie-packed alcoholic drinks in favor of marijuana to help them unwind and relax. Those who do partake and find themselves getting hungry should make sure they stick to clean food if they want to maintain good health.

Of course, cannabis will have to be legalized throughout the nation before it can make serious inroads in America’s weight problem. Some states have made it legal to use marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, but not every state has gotten on board and some show no signs of following suit. However, with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that more than 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese, these states might want to start taking a closer look at the body of research on marijuana use and obesity.

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