Marijuana Weight Loss Research Reveals Impact on Insulin Levels


You would think that an herb that relaxes you and stimulates the appetite would not be linked to weight loss but reality seems to indicate something different. Many people have wondered over the years why marijuana smokers are usually skinny, even if they eat a ton of bad food and become less active. A study that was done by epidemiologists at Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Nebraska and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have asked the same question about marijuana weight loss and made some very interesting discoveries. They found that marijuana is linked to lower fasting insulin levels, healthier waistlines and BMI scores, although they are only in the beginning stages of discovering why. Their findings were published in The American Journal of Medicine and invite the scientific community to explore further study.

Basics of the Marijuana Weight Loss Study

Medical marijuana is found to impact fasting insulin.

The researchers used data and samples collected from 4,657 nationally represented adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2005 and 2010. Upon deeper investigation, the scientists were able to discover a powerful link between marijuana and healthy blood control. They examined the data and samples taken from current marijuana users, those who used marijuana in the past and those who had never used the herb. The participants were tested for their fasting insulin and glucose levels, insulin resistance, cholesterol levels and waist circumference.

The results show that even after adjusting for age, gender, tobacco use, alcohol use and level of physical activity, those who currently smoke marijuana have a much smaller waist circumference than those who don’t or longer do. They also have higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL) which helps the heart stay healthy. Upon investigation of this fact, the researchers found that the current marijuana smokers have 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels and their insulin resistance was reduced by 17 percent.

Understanding Fasting Insulin

Lead investigator Murray Mittleman, M.D., stated, “Previous epidemiologic studies have found lower prevalence rates of obesity and diabetes in marijuana users.” He adds that “two large studies found that marijuana users tended to be leaner than non-users, even after accounting for other behavioral and clinical characteristics.”  He explains that “ours is the first study to investigate the relationship between marijuana use and fasting insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance.”

Fasting insulin levels show how healthy the blood glucose levels in the body are and can stay over an extended period of time. Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas that helps sugar or glucose move from the blood and into the cells where it’s able to be used or stored for later use as fat. If insulin levels are too high, the body will store too much food as fat instead of processing it. At the same time, if the sugar doesn’t move into the cells, the blood sugar levels will be elevated. When the blood sugar levels are constantly high, insulin resistance may occur which ultimately causes many health issues like diabetes and heart disease. Insulin resistance causes a person to feel constant hunger and thirst, leading to overeating in order to get enough insulin.

How Insulin Works with Weight Loss

Marijuana weight loss is still not fully explained, though this research points in a favorable direction.

When insulin levels spike too high they cause the body to store food as fat, when they drop too low, they cause sugar cravings and intensified hunger. Healthy fasting insulin levels and low insulin resistance plays a major part in weight gain and weight loss as well as resistance to diabetes, obesity and heart disease, which are all at epidemic proportions in the U.S. today.

The marijuana smokers clearly had healthier insulin levels and less insulin resistance. Mittleman spoke to Healthline News about the marijuana weight loss saying, “We know from previous work that drugs that block the cannabinoid receptors in the body have similar favorable metabolic effects. It is possible that some of the cannabinoid compounds in the marijuana used by the study participants may have had mixed effects, partially stimulating and partially blocking the (cannabinoid) receptors.”

Although it’s still unclear how this marijuana weight loss works exactly, the link has given an indication to the scientific communities on where to look. With the likelihood of a ban on marijuana research being lifted in the not-too-distant future, the health community can look forward to better understanding the link between thinner waists and marijuana use.



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