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Pot smokers skinnier than non-tokers, study says

  1. Phungushead
    We're all familiar with the stereotype of the typical pot smoker -- a lumpy, lazy couch potato with one hand wrapped around the remote and the other elbow-deep in a bag of nacho cheese Doritos.

    But new research out of France gives a different spin to the stereotypical stoner.

    "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.

    "We found that cannabis users are less likely to be obese than non-users," he says. "We were so surprised, we thought we had [made] a mistake. Or that our results were due to the sample we studied. So we turned to another completely independent sample and found exactly the same association."

    Le Strat and his colleagues ended up using data from two epidemiologic studies of U.S. adults -- the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and the 2001-2003 National Comorbidity Survey-Replication -- to tally the weight differences between pot smokers and non-pot smokers.

    Obesity rates among participants in the two surveys who reported no use of cannabis were 22 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively. Those who fessed up to smoking pot at least three days a week, however, had obesity rates of 14.3 percent and 17.2 percent, respectively.

    La Strat says there could be "confounding factors" which would explain the results -- such as the level of physical activity of the pot smokers, or the fact that they might also use tobacco -- but they tried to rule out such factors.

    "We did our best to take them into account and still showed the association," he says. "Our findings are too preliminary to answer [what accounts for the disparity]. But there are a lot of different substances in cannabis. The observed association may be due to the effects of one of them."

    An adjunct scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Le Strat was also quick to point out that his study might send the wrong message.

    "The take-home message is certainly not 'smoke cannabis, it will help you lose weight,'" he says. "The possibility that cannabis is associated with a lower risk of obesity remains an interesting hypothesis, but certainly does not counterbalance its negative effects on health and mental health."

    Andrea Giancoli, a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, agrees that the study seems very preliminary.

    "There could be many other reasons why pot smokers have less obesity," she says. "Maybe they're inclined to exercise more, be outdoors more, eat more fruits and vegetables. There could be all kinds of confounding factors that could make the results null and void. We can't look at this study and take it as a license to go out and smoke pot because we think it's going to help us lose weight. We need more information."

    Giancoli does acknowledge one thing, though.

    "I know when we think about smoking pot, one of the jokes is that it gives you the munchies and dry mouth so you drink a bunch of water and eat a bunch of Cheetos," she says. "Maybe we need to adjust the stereotype."

    02 September 2011

    By Diane Mapes

    Here's the abstract for Le Strat's study. If anyone is able to dig up the full text and upload it to the archive, it would be much appreciated.


  1. chaos69
  2. welshmick
    I know some huge cannabis smokers.

    I know some thin cannabis smokers.

    I know some medium cannabis smokers.

    Not convinced.
  3. Plasma
    I don't think obesity was ever a caution when smoking cannabis, sure when my camel smokes he enjoys food and eats that little extra, but it's certainly not enough for him to put on noticeable levels of weight. Also it's hard to establish cause and effect here, I doubt it's cannabis which causes lower weight in smokers, but a tonne of other variables.

    I can't find any sources which state weight changes when rats are given THC, so pretty skeptical (although if anyone finds one, that would be interesting).
  4. msjaguarxj6
    Interesting article. I agree.. Marijuana stimulates the appetite, but it doesn't mean that you're going to gorge yourself on potato chips and ho hos. I think when I was younger and smoked once in awhile I would have the munchies so strong.. Now a days it doesn't really do it to me. Plus if I do get them and decide to eat a huge bowl of ice cream I feel soooo guilty afterwards. So I'd rather starve than overeat and get sick. The fat lazy stoner is such a tired stereotype.
  5. MikePatton
    It was a very nice article until he ruined it right here:
    "The possibility that cannabis is associated with a lower risk of obesity remains an interesting hypothesis, but certainly does not counterbalance its negative effects on health and mental health."

    I don't know how accurate those results really are, I actually do eat a lot when the munch shows its ugly head, but I figure my efforts to rush to the nearest Burger King burn more fat than the meal itself as I don't drive when I'm stoned :]
  6. Nature Boy
    This is an interesting finding not so much in terms of hard science but in terms of the sociological angle. The test pool are Americans, America being a country with more-or-less two very opposite attitudes in regards to recreational drug use. To some, smoking pot is seen as a practical sin whereas in the more traditionally liberal areas, the occasional joint is no big deal. It would be interesting to see the geographical breakdown of these results. Would it be mad to suggest that the more obese, non-pot smokers stemmed from the US heartland and the south? Even regardless of political leanings, could peoples' general diets be worse in these regions for other reasons? One can only guess but it is a curiosity nonetheless.
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