Researchers at the University of Miami recently engaged in a study to find a link between marijuana and body weight. The results of the study, published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, may come as a surprise. Despite the stereotypical picture of a cannabis user as fat and lazy, the findings suggest that marijuana users are thinner.
The background of the study explains that isn’t the first time the correlation between marijuana use and weight was undertaken; however, most research in the past had critical flaws. Unlike those, the researchers here were careful to establish control on the following:
- physical activity,
- socioeconomic status, and
- alcohol use.
All of these factors are important considerations on body weight.
With that in mind, data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health was used to examine the relationship between marijuana use and body mass index (BMI) over time. Using a variety of tests, including waist circumference, the data was collected to compare the body mass index of marijuana users to those who do not use it.
Results of the examination showed that for both men and women, marijuana use was associated with a lower body mass index; that is, being thinner. For men, marijuana users’ BMI were 2.7 percent lower than non-users. For women, the difference was even greater at 3.1 percent less.
In their conclusion, the researchers note that the importance of the study should not go to waste. For one, the association between marijuana use and body mass has medical implications that are important for both the healthcare community as well as policy makers. Secondly, the fact that these results contradict the conclusions of other studies done in the past highlights the importance of controlling for other variables; these previous studies, the researcher’s note, left important factors unaddressed that may have invalidated their results.
The study end with a call for more research on this topic. Researchers should also examine the mechanisms by which marijuana may contribute to a lower BMI. These findings, however, are not entirely a surprise. In fact, the results are actually in line with some other data that has come out of the past. A 2011 study, for example, also found a correlation between cannabis use and lower body weight. Given the massive obesity problem in the United States, finding any and all methods to help alleviate the problem could not come sooner.