The Possibilities of Using Medical Marijuana to Control Obesity
It seems that marijuana has commanded quite a lot of attention in recent years. The legalization of the drug in 23 different states in the country has opened the doors for scientific research on its benefits in a number of health conditions. One of those benefits, it turns out, could be the way to reverse obesity for many.
It has long been understood that marijuana users have historically been able to stay relatively slim in spite of one of its well-known side effects, "the munchies." The drug has had a long-standing reputation for increasing the user's appetite, but according to a new research study published in the American Journal of Medicine, it also has a way of helping the body to use those extra calories and avoid putting on the excess pounds. As one writer puts it for Time Magazine, "Three prior studies have shown that marijuana users are less likely to be obese, have a lower risk for diabetes and have lower body-mass-index measurements. And these trends occurred despite the fact that they seemed to take in more calories."
The results show promise for one of the most obese nations in the world, and are also encouraging for the millions of diabetic sufferers who may find their only means of improving their health is in getting rid of excess weight.
According to the report, it seems that marijuana helps the user to metabolize their carbohydrates more efficiently. This allows them to keep their fasting insulin levels at a lower percentage and makes them less resistant to the insulin produced in their own bodies so they can maintain their blood sugar in a normal range.
A recent study reported on in The American Journal of Medicine outlined research that indicated that those who regularly used marijuana actually had smaller waistlines. The study results also showed that those who were regular marijuana users had not only a smaller waistline, but also had a fasting insulin level that was 16% lower, and a lower insulin resistance at 17%.
This might lead more people to wonder how this is possible. The results seem to be contradictory to say the least. While marijuana stimulates a person's appetite and increases caloric intake, it doesn't appear to have a negative impact on the body's BMI.
The study's methodology was to analyze data collected from more than 4,600 participants from across the country. Researchers found that 12% of the participants were identified as regular marijuana users, and 42% claimed to have used the drug in the past. The data collected consisted of measuring blood sugar levels, fasting insulin, glucose levels, insulin resistance, cholesterol, and waist circumference. A team of researchers from the University of Nebraska, Harvard School of Public Health, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center concluded that, "Current marijuana users had significantly smaller waist circumference than participants who had never used marijuana, even after adjusting for factors like age, sex, tobacco and alcohol use, and physical activity levels. They also had higher levels of HDL ("good cholesterol")."
Probably the most impressive differences revealed in the study was the significant difference in insulin resistance between those who used marijuana and those who did not.
What It Means
The evidence produced from the study clearly show that there is a direct correlation between the compounds found in marijuana and weight loss however, before anyone runs out to pick up the habit, they are quick to emphasize that more testing is needed in order to see if the derivatives that seem to be involved in the weight loss efforts can be used in other areas of health that are affected by weight loss. Its ability to control diabetes, maintain blood pressure, and other factors related to stroke, for example.
The researchers have already identified the compounds that are attributed to reducing cholesterol levels in mice, but have yet to see the full extent of its impact on human test subjects. They are however, hopeful that this age-old could be the one thing that can bring America's obesity levels down in a major way.
Even with all of that, researchers remain cautious and stop just short of recommending that everyone go out and take the magic pill. As they point out in Business Insider, "It seems highly unlikely that eating more would lead to better measures of blood sugar control; rather, we hypothesize that the increased appetite and better metabolic profile found in marijuana users could both be caused by the interplay of the cannabinoids – the active ingredient in marijuana – with the body's endocannabinoid system."
It is obvious that more study needs to be done to fully understand just how the drug is managing to control weight gain and its impact on the rest of the body's system. The division between those for its use and those against is narrowing with each study, so the future possibilities for this drug seem to be emerging on the more positive side.