A new study suggests that people who regularly smoke weed are skinnier than the general population.
The study analysed data from more than 4,500 adult Americans — 579 of whom were current marijuana smokers, meaning they had smoked in the last month. About 2,000 had used marijuana in the past, while another 2,000 had never used the drug.
They studied their body’s response to eating sugars: their levels of the hormone insulin and their blood sugar levels while they hadn’t eaten in nine hours, and after eating sugar.
Not only are pot users skinnier, but their body has a healthier response to sugar.
When we eat sugar, our bodies respond by releasing the hormone insulin. Insulin primes our cells to absorb the sugar and turn it into storable starches, so it can be used at a later time.
When we take in too many simple sugars over a lifetime this system can go haywire, and our cells stop reacting to insulin, a syndrome called insulin resistance, a precursor to type-two diabetes.
The study, published May 15 in The American Journal Of Medicine, shows that people who had smoke marijuana in the past month have a healthier response to insulin than the average person.
Their insulin levels of recent pot-smokers were lower during fasting and they had a lower insulin resistance score. They also had more “good” cholesterol and smaller waists.
This could mean they are less likely to be obese, at a lower risk for heart disease, less likely to develop insulin resistance, and less likely to develop diabetes.
This sounds a little backwards, since potheads are known to get the “munchies” and eat nonstop. Studies have found that when people smoke marijuana, they take in an average of 600 calories more.
The link between increased appetite and food intake, but healthier metabolic reaction to sugars, is still a mystery.
We also can’t say for sure that pot smoking leads to better health outcomes, only that the traits the researchers saw in pot smokers — lower insulin resistance scores and smaller waist circumference — are associated with lower health risks.
“The mechanisms underlying this paradox have not been determined and the impact of regular marijuana use on insulin resistance and cardiometabolic risk factors remains unknown,” says coauthor Hannah Buettner.
Similar results have been seen in lab animals given the active ingredient in marijuana, Tetrahydrocannabinol. A study from March 2012, published in the journal Phytomedicine, suggests that even already obese rats, when given cannabis, have lost weight in lab studies.
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