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Does Marijuana Help Speed Your Metabolism?

In research published late last year, scientists from the University of Miami reported that regular marijuana users were 54% less likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome than their non-using counterparts. According to the Mayo Clinic, metabolic syndrome is a term for a series of co-occurring health problems. The conditions include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Excess body fat around the waist and belly
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels

When these factors all occur together, they increase your likelihood of developing stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.

The University of Miami study examined data from nearly 8,500 individuals via the National Health and Nutrition Surveys. Participants included were between the 20 and 59-years-old. They found cannabis users on average:

  • Had lower blood sugar levels
  • Less risk of developing type 2 Diabetes
  • Less abdominal fat
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Lower levels of bad cholesterol.

These findings are in tune with other research on marijuana and metabolism. Research from 2013 and 2014 has shown that regular weed smokers have lower BMIs and waistlines up to 1.5 inches smaller than non-users. In the face of a worldwide obesity epidemic, the scientific community is struggling to figure out just how weed is able to have such a positive effect on your metabolism.

THC & Belly Fat

Back in 2008, Italian researchers targeted the CB1 receptor as a potential cause for obesity. Research conducted a few years later by a different Italian institution found that who have metabolic syndrome have been shown to have a dysfunction in the endocannabinoid system. Namely, sufferers of metabolic diseases have overstimulated CB1 receptors.

In theory, the overactivation of the CB1 receptor by THC should make you store MORE fat. Sans marijuana, too much anandamide binding to the same receptors encourages you to binge eat and crave fatty, sugary foods. This excess energy is then turned into excess belly chub.

CBD Helps Boost Metabolism

The funny thing about the marijuana plant is that when you consume it, you’re taking in two substances that largely contradict each other. THC increases appetite by binding to CB1 cell receptors in your brain. But, at the same time, CBD tells those cell receptors to deactivate.

Researchers at the School of Pharmacy in Berkshire’s University of Reading treated male rats with three different cannabinoids and watched to see how each chemical affected the rodents’ appetite. The three cannabinoids they tested were:

  • cannabigerol (CBG)
  • cannabinol (CBN)
  • cannabidiol (CBD)

They found that CBN caused rats to eat more and CBG had no effect on appetite. But, CBD worked like magic. The rats still ate, but their overall food intake was less during the test period. These findings on CBD confirm what a handful of other studies have also shown.

In 2012, scientists in Budapest found that CBD was effective at reducing the amount of fat build-up inside arteries. This fat build-up happens when you have high blood sugar. A study from 2011 found that CBD protected insulin-producing cells from damage in the pancreas. Another study involving rodents from 2010 found that CBD decreased the body weight of adult rats.

These research results have made CBD a huge target as a future medicine for diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic illnesses. In fact, UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals is currently developing a cannabis-derived diabetes drug. GW Pharma is the creator of Sativex, a cannabis mouth spray that treats muscle spasms in Multiple Sclerosis patients.

So, what does all of this research suggest? When you smoke/eat/dab/vape weed, you are consuming some compounds that rev up your metabolism and make you hungry (THC). But, you’re also consuming other cannabinoids that directly help mitigate some of that metabolic dysregulation (CBD). This goes to show you just how complicated marijuana science can be.

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