While the health effects of marijuana remain inconclusive, it’s clear that consuming the plant can have various beneficial effects for humans. Aside from being able to relieve chronic pain and nausea, recent research has suggested that smoking marijuana may help with mental performance and counteracting depression.
The truth is that some people might be surprised to learn that smoking weed can help them lose weight. After all, the popular conception of marijuana is that it is a “munchies” plant that causes you to eat more than you normally do. While this might be true for some individuals, other studies have suggested that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound found in the cannabis sativa plant that gives users the psychoactive effect, can increase metabolism and decrease body fat in animal models.
So, can you actually lose weight by smoking weed? If you’re wondering, the answer is yes. But like many things in life, it depends on what you’re looking for. Depending on your current health concerns and medication, you might not be the right fit for medicinal marijuana use. And for recreational purposes, you’ll need to understand the various health risks that come with the drug.
Can You Lose Weight By Smoking Weed?
According to a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, individuals who consumed THC daily for two weeks showed a decrease in body mass index (BMI) and increased muscle mass compared to those who took a placebo. While the first study doesn’t prove cause and effect, it does suggest that regularly smoking weed can help you lose weight.
The study’s authors noted that since the 1930s, when marijuana was first classified as an addictive drug, there has been widespread misconception regarding the relationship between weed and obesity. But with ongoing research, they say that “this perception must be reconsidered,” as there is mounting evidence that marijuana can have health benefits, particularly for people with obesity.
In another study, published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, researchers looked at the effects of cannabinoids (marijuana compounds) in mice. They found that when administered intraperitoneally, cannabinoids decreased adiposity and body weight gain in animals with a high-fat diet. In other words, the mice that were injected with cannabinoids had less body fat and gained less weight than the control group.
Although the mechanisms behind marijuana’s weight loss effects are not fully understood, it appears that cannabinoids have the ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system, a system that regulates a variety of biological and neurological functions, including energy balance and metabolism. In addition to interacting with the endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids have been shown to interact with the receptors for serotonin and dopamin, which are important in maintaining healthy moods and regulating energy intake. The fact that cannabinoids affect these systems might help explain why marijuana can have both depressive and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects in humans.
What Are The Risks Of Smoking Weed?
Let’s address the elephant in the room first: Despite marijuana’s apparent ability to decrease body fat and increase muscle mass, it is still an addictive drug that can have various dangerous side effects, some of which are even life-threatening. The key facts about marijuana are summarized in the following table:
As you can see, aside from its psychoactive effects, which might make you crave sweets, marijuana has a number of dangerous side effects, including:
- Neurological damage (including damage to the brain cells that control cognition)
- Respiratory tract damage
- Heart disease
- Accelerated growth of tumors
- Chronic pain
Let’s take a closer look at each of these side effects.
Neurological Damage (including Damage To The Brain Cells That Control Cognition)
Neurological damage is a broad term that includes damage to the nerves that control movement, sensation, memory, and cognition. For example, THC can affect the development of the central nervous system (CNS) in animals and interrupt neuronal signaling, which, in turn, may lead to learning and memory problems. It can also cause anxiety, agitation, and paranoia. There is also evidence that long-term exposure to THC can cause structural changes in the brain.
It’s important to note here that while any sort of drug use, including marijuana, can be harmful, especially when used in excess, there is also evidence that some medications and natural substances can have remarkable protective effects against the adverse effects of THC. For example, the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to have neuroprotective properties and be beneficial in the treatment of neurological disorders, including THC-induced neurotoxicity. Similarly, the micronized vitamin E (Tocotrienol) can protect the brain and nervous system against toxins and enhance the body’s defense against infections. In fact, there is preliminary evidence that combining vitamin E with CBD or another anti-inflammatory agent, such as aspirin or gingko biloba, might be a viable therapeutic strategy for individuals seeking to avoid the devastating effects of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Respiratory Tract Damage
The respiratory tract, which is made up of the nasal passages, sinuses, and throat, is incredibly important in maintaining a healthy balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. Any damage to the respiratory tract can lead to serious complications, including death. Specifically, the lungs are a common target of respiratory infection, and even more so for viruses, such as the common cold and flu. It’s important to note here that while the majority of cases of the common cold and flu are caused by viruses, other factors, such as poor nutrition and stress, often make people more vulnerable to infections. Additionally, tobacco smoke and dust are two common causes of respiratory problems.
There is evidence that both chronic and acute exposure to tobacco smoke can cause damage to the respiratory tract, including mucosal dryness, decreased cilia and secretions, and an inability to clear debris and foreign particles from the airways.
It’s also important to realize that while it might be tempting to try to self-diagnose and treat symptoms of the common cold and flu with over-the-counter medications, such as DayQuil or Tylenol, this might not be the best course of action. Instead, if you suspect that you are becoming ill with a respiratory infection, it’s best to consult with a physician for diagnosis and treatment.
The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood throughout the body, providing vital nutrients and oxygen to the cells. One of the main functions of the heart is to regulate blood pressure, so a high blood pressure, or hypertension, is considered a major risk factor for heart disease. If you have ever seen the movie She’s Such a Woman, you might recall that high blood pressure is often the cause of a patient’s heart condition.
Hypertension can lead to various heart problems, including hypertrophy, or thickening of the heart muscle, which can progress to heart failure. Other complications from hypertension include atherosclerosis, or buildup of plaque in the arteries, and stroke. Because of its serious health implications, hypertension is considered a major risk factor for an individual’s chance of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. There is also evidence that exposure to tobacco smoke impairs the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates many body processes, including digestion, respiration, reproduction, and heart rate. As a result, it has been estimated that tobacco use contributes to 13.3 million heart disease cases worldwide.
Accelerated Growth Of Tumors
Tumors, or swellings of the tissue, are common in humans. They can usually be found somewhere on the body, but most frequently appear as a growth on the skin or in the digestive tract. While most tumors are harmless, some, such as hepatomas (tumors of the liver) and lymphomas (tumors of the lymph nodes), are harmful and can be life-threatening.
There is evidence that THC can enhance the growth of some tumors in animals. For example, in a 2014 study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, rodents were injected with melanoma tumor cells. The researchers then measured the tumor growth in each group after treatment with THC or vehicle. They found that compared to the control group, the group of animals that were administered THC had an increased number of tumors. This means that THC could potentially accelerate the growth of some human tumors in animals.