I love watching the media report on marijuana stories. It turns out, according to separate analyses of US data by researchers in France, that Americans who smoke pot are less likely to be obese than non-toking counterparts.
“Cannabis is supposed to increase appetite,” says Dr. Yann Le Strat, a psychiatrist at Louis-Mourier Hospital in Colombes, France and co-author of a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. “So we hypothesized that cannabis users would be more likely to have higher weight than non-users and be more likely to be obese.”
Instead, Le Strat and his colleagues found just the opposite.
It reminds me of Dr. Tashkin, hypothesizing that cannabis smokers must have greater incidence of cancer than non smokers and finding just the opposite (“Study Finds No Cancer-Marijuana Connection” Wash. Post, 2006).
What Dr. Le Strat found in two separate surveys is that 22% and 25.3% of the non-tokers were obese. Only 14.3% and 17.2% of tokers who admitted to three-times-a-week use of cannabis were obese (this writer notwithstanding).
The initial reports were careful to note that this doesn’t mean smoking pot helps you lose weight. Gawker fairly reported “Pot Smokers Less Likely to Be Obese” and led with munchie jokes, but other outlets ran headlines like “How To Fight Obesity? Maybe Try Smoking Marijuana” and “Fight obesity… with marijuana?” and my favorite, “Marijuana: The Newest and Laziest Weight Loss Craze Sweeping the Nation“.
So what gives? I have many ideas:
- pot smokers are less likely to be drinking calorie-laden beers,
- there are a lot of hippie-vegan-bicycling stoners out there,
- people who can afford marijuana can afford healthier eating habits,
- people who can’t afford marijuana eat out less to be able to afford marijuana,
- the calories burned just trying to get to fast food outlets outweigh the calories of the burger (see: Harold & Kumar)
- medical marijuana patients aren’t affected by the pharmaceutical side effects that cause weight gain,
- cannabis use makes any munchies tasty, even celery sticks and carrots,
- people who are already healthy are more likely to choose a safer substance,
- people who do undertake exercise stick to it better with a high (see: American Beauty).