While cannabis is known to increase appetite in what is known as the ‘munchies’, some say they are able to lose weight while using the substance. Does cannabis help people gain or lose weight?
A review from 2011 found that people who used cannabis for at least 3 days per week had lower rates of obesity than people who do not use cannabis. On top of this, a meta-analysis from 2018 found that people who smoke cannabis tend to have significantly lower body mass indexes (BMI) and obesity rates than those who do not use cannabis although they also had increased calorie intakes.
While the exact reasons behind these results are unknown, some theories exist. For example, cannabis may relieve symptoms of pain and stiffness, thus increasing the mobility of people affected by these issues. It may also cause some people to consume less alcohol, meaning they have less exposure to calories from this source.
Moreover, the anti-anxiety effects of cannabis may help some people eat less from stress, and improve the quality of their sleep. Some research also suggests that high cannabis intake can increase metabolism and reduce energy storage, which may lead to a lower BMI as well.
Countering the plant’s weight-loss potential, another study demonstrated that US states in which cannabis is now legal have seen a corresponding rise in junk food sales (chips, cookies and ice cream). While this doesn’t suggest any causation, it may be a factor to consider in future research about cannabis's potential to aid in weight loss.
These findings nevertheless come alongside research demonstrating the ability of psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to trigger hunger. THC’s ability to increase appetite has even been shown to help cancer patients regain their appetite and sense of taste. CBD, on the other hand, has been shown as a counterbalance to THC, both for its effect on appetite and mood.
Although cannabis may indirectly help people lose weight, it is still unknown whether using the substance has any direct effects. While some of the compounds within cannabis may be able to exert an effect themselves that could influence weight loss or gain, more research is needed to arrive at a firm conclusion for the plant as a whole, as well as its components.