In spite of its tendency to make you feel hungry, or give you the “munchies,” cannabis may really help you maintain a healthy weight.
A recent study published in the journal Health Economics suggests that cannabis users may have a lower risk of obesity than non-users. The study compared health data from Washington before and after 2014, when cannabis use for recreational purposes became widely available there.
The report states that “Obesity rates decreased for Washington State as a result of marijuana legalisation, which allowed for recreational marijuana outlets to open.”
The state’s obesity rate was, on average, 5.4% lower in the four years following legalisation than it would have been otherwise.
How Did They Discover That, Anyway?
The scientists created a synthetic counterfactual, as the name suggests.
According to the principal author and assistant professor of applied economics at North Dakota State University Raymond March, PhD, “It’s the best simulation of what Washington would have looked like had it not legalised marijuana.” By merging statistics from states like Arizona, Minnesota, Kansas, and New Hampshire that did not legalise over those same 4 years, March and his colleagues were able to create a population that is similar to that of Washington state.
As a result, the “synthetic counterfactual” was created to show what Washington may have looked like without legalisation. The authors come to the conclusion that, given the costs of treating obesity-related illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and an elevated risk of early mortality, the state would have had 5.4% more obese persons during the “post-treatment period,” or the four years following legalisation.
The obesity rates in Washington State were also contrasted with the national average by the researchers. Both have an upward trend, but after 2014, Washington’s rate of increase sharply decreased.
Why may this be taking place?
In a 2018 study published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, Thomas Clark, PhD, a physiologist in the Department of Biological Sciences at Indiana University in South Bend, addressed one potential explanation. The study found that by lowering the effects of an elevated ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids on endocannabinoid (eCB) tone, cannabis use appears to reverse the negative health impacts of the modern American diet.
According to Clark, obesity in the United States has continued to rise since the 1970s. Government subsidies for soybean and corn oils, which change the physiological control of metabolism in the body, are where it all started. By adding vegetable oils like soybean oil in the diet, you can change the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which causes the body’s endocannabinoid system to become overactive and lead to weight gain.
The endocannabinoid system, which helps the body maintain homeostasis or balance, is controlled by signalling molecules that are imitated by cannabis-derived compounds. Yes, cannabis stimulates hunger, which is why it is used therapeutically by those with illnesses like AIDS or who are undergoing therapies that suppress appetite, like chemotherapy. However, according to Clark, it also regulates the endocannabinoid system in a way that prevents weight gain, restores it to balance, and, at the very least, aids Washington residents in regulating the rate of weight growth in their state.
According to his findings, we should investigate the relationship between cannabis use and certain metabolic illnesses. “Use of cannabis may have a considerable health advantage.”
Cannabis could be a solution to the American public’s expanding waistlines and health hazards if those advantages are proven.