Hold the munchies — did you know weed could actually help you lose weight?
Certain strains have given the herb a reputation for stimulating appetite, but overall cannabis consumers tend to be lighter than the general population. One study found regular consumers to have smaller waist lines and a lower prevalence of obesity than their non-toking counterparts, while another study linked cannabis to lower BMI (body mass index).
While THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), weed’s main psychoactive compound (or cannabinoid), is a known appetite stimulant, CBD (cannabidiol), the second-most common, non-psychotropic compound in cannabis actually suppresses appetite. Strains that are higher in THC would typically give you the munchies (and get you really high), while high-CBD strains might have the reverse effect.
The body’s endocannabinoid system, or internal network of cannabinoid receptor cells, regulates appetite and metabolism. Endocannabinoid receptors signal to the body when to release ghrelin, also called the “hunger hormone.” Cannabinoids like THC or CBN (cannabinol) activate the body’s endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and digestive tract, telling the body when to get hungry. Other cannabinoids like CBD or THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) do the opposite.
Some strains are naturally high in CBD or THCV, such as ACDC, Durban Poison, Pineapple Purps, Doug’s Varin, or Harlequin, while others can be engineered to contain higher levels of those cannabinoids. Bethenny Frankel’s “Skinnygirl Marijuana,” for example, received a lot of press last year for being bred to be munchie-free.
Cannabis also plays a role in managing blood sugar, hence why consumers have been found to have overall lower levels of diabetes. Specifically, the compound THCV was found to play a role in better insulin sensitivity in rats.
The plant’s cannabinoids aren’t the only helpful agents in weight loss. Some of its terpenes, or aromatic molecules, have been shown to curb appetite, as well. The terpene humulene, found in cannabis, as well as in hops, ginseng, and sage, is therapeutically used as an analgesic, an antibacterial, an anti-inflammatory, an anti proliferative (inhibiting cancer cell growth) — and as an anorectic, or appetite suppressant. Strains that have high levels of humulene include White Widow, Girl Scout Cookies, and Headband.
However, though some of these strains, such as Girl Scout Cookies, are high in THC, the munchie-inducing cannabinoid isn’t all bad for weight loss. For starters, weed never forced anyone to order pizza and mozarella sticks — that’s all you. But more importantly, THC can actually curb weight gain in a high fat diet. According to a study, when two groups of obese mice were fed a fatty diet, the one group that was also fed cannabis gained less weight than its weedless counterpart. The study also found that eating THC might help consumers better access its weight reduction properties than other forms of ingestion. The THC changed the obese mice’s gut microbiota (microorganisms in the intestine) so that they resembled the microbiota of healthy mice. However, this only happened in obese mice, and not in healthy mice, meaning that THC might not help you lose weight beyond a reasonable amount.
Science aside, weed is also a simple, calorie-free alternative to alcohol. So whether you smoke a high CBD or THCV strain to suppress your appetite, or even get some light munchies with a high THC strain, either option could help you cut back on sugars and carbs you’d ordinarily take in to get a buzz.