The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis has been recognized for many years.
Scientists understood that the research pointed to compounds within the cannabis plant that helped humans (and animals) heal from disorders caused by inflammation. Inflammation is also linked to obesity. This is important because chronic inflammation is responsible for half of all the deaths worldwide.
For these reasons, people are told by doctors that they should be losing weight for their health. It’s much more than simply being obese or for aesthetic reasons. Obesity is linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and stroke. Meanwhile, systemic inflammation can cause other fatal diseases including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders.
But how exactly obesity triggers inflammation in the body is relatively uncertain, though it seems like it has to do with an immune response. Scientists know that more weight means that the body has more inflammation, and reducing weight also means less inflammation.
Now, a new study out of the United States reveals that our body mass index (BMI) actually plays a role in the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis.
What the research said
The researchers wanted to analyze the pathways that link systemic inflammation to cannabis use. They studied the experience of 712 minority youth, including their assigned sex at birth and gender. The subjects went through 6 biannual visits during which their substance use was analyzed, their BMI was measured and plasma samples were taken during their final visit.
“BMI may partially account for the apparent anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis use,” wrote the authors.
They found that all covariates tested with the exception of BMI, they found a greater cumulative Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test score. It was linked to a reduce presence of C-reactive protein, as reduced interleukin-6. Both of these are known biomarkers of systemic inflammation.
“These associations were attenuated when BMI was added to the model,” the authors wrote. “This study suggests BMI may partially explain anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis.”
“Research on the mechanisms linking cannabis use, adiposity (defined as severely or morbidly overweight) and inflammation may uncover promising intervention targets,” suggested the authors.
RELATED: Can Hemp Help You Lose Weight?
While cannabis use has been associated with the notorious “munchies”, the science says otherwise: it seems that cannabis users tend to have a lower body mass index, which means they are less likely to be obese or overweight, thus having less of a risk to inflammatory diseases.
One study conducted by researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) wanted to investigate if regular cannabis users are indeed prone to gaining more weight. The study, led by assistant professor of family medicine at MSU, Omayma Alshaarawy, Ph.D., involved studying data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). The NESARC included some 33,000 participants from the US aged 18 and up who were tasked to complete interviews regarding their BMI and cannabis use from 2001 through 2005.
At the end of the study period, they found that 77% of the participants never consumed cannabis, 18% quit, 3% had only just started, while 2% were considered “persistent users.”
The findings revealed that the cannabis users were less likely to be overweight or obese. “Over a 3-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,” reports the lead author. According to Alshaarawy, the findings were surprising since cannabis is a known appetite stimulant. “Our study builds on mounting evidence that this opposite effect occurs,” she explained.
Additionally, lower BMI was discovered among persistent and new users. “We found that users, even those who just started, were more likely to be at a normal, healthier weight and stay at that weight… Only 15% of persistent users were considered obese, compared to 20% of non users,” she adds.
The findings also explain that even though the BMI differences among nonusers and users wasn’t significant, it still is enough that the researchers found a pattern in the whole sample size. “An average 2-pound difference doesn’t seem like much, but we found it in more than 30,000 people with all different kinds of behaviors and still got this result,” she said.
However, we should take note that the study was more observational and they don’t infer causality. “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,” she explained. “Or it could be the cannabis 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,” they concluded.
Using cannabis as part of a healthy lifestyle and diet to bring your weight down is a great, natural way to keep inflammation at bay. Stay away from inflammatory foods such as refined carbohydrates, fried food, sugar, and soda.
Remember that obesity is treated medically just like any other condition because it leads to other chronic conditions. Ensure that you are getting regular exercise and eat more whole, unprocessed food. Additionally, getting enough sleep is also an important way to reduce inflammation and keep your weight at healthy levels. If you are overweight and would like to use cannabis as part of your holistic approach, best to speak to a cannabis-friendly physician to find out the products that are best for you.