Debunked: Marijuana Munchies Don’t Make You Fatter

But no, you shouldn’t smoke pot in order to lose weight, scientist urges

Hash brownies
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Marijuana may cause the munchies, or it may not. The only fact here is that pot smokers weigh less than their non-indulging peers, a groundbreaking study at the University of Michigan has indicated.

Why the conventional wisdom is so, so wrong is not clear. But in any case, the scientists behind the study stress that they don’t think embracing dope in order to diet is a good idea.

So many things are a matter of faith, from the sanctity of scripture to your pets understanding English. Now science has debunked a dearly held belief of the corpulent cannabis consumer that the drug causes compulsive eating, which is why they’re fat. (If nonusers wonder why people would smoke marijuana, ask any user.)

This is not a pot dream. The research was published on the night of Passover in the prestigious, Oxford-published International Journal of Epidemiology. And whether the users were newbies or persistent indulgers, they were found to be less likely to be overweight or obese overall.

The differences were not major: 900 grams for participants 170 centimeters in height who weighed 91 kilograms at the start of the study (2 pounds for 5-foot-7-inch participants weighing about 200 pounds).

Mac and Cheese marijuana.
© Lew Robertson / Corbis

But the variance was common among the entire sample size, the researchers write, and this isn’t a study on some isolated village of mutants. It was based on body mass data from 33,000 people in the U.S. National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions.

“We found that users, even those who just started, were more likely to be at a normal, healthier weight and stay at that weight,” said Omayma Alshaarawy, lead author and an assistant professor of family medicine. “Only 15 percent of persistent users were considered obese, compared to 20 percent of nonusers.”

What is a difference of 2 pounds if you weigh 200? That isn’t the issue. It’s that the difference was very widely consistent, Alshaarawy explained.

Why why why?

Many, though not all, aficionados of weed will attest to post-smoking cravings for food, usually sweet. The truth is that neither Alshaarawy nor anybody else has a clue why this happens. Also why some people get the munchies and some don’t. Or why on earth marijuana users would weigh less than their peers.

“It could be something that’s more behavioral, like someone becoming more conscious of their food intake as they worry about the munchies after cannabis use and gaining weight,” said Alshaarawy, who published the study with James Anthony. “Or it could be the cannabis use itself, which can modify how certain cells, or receptors, respond in the body and can ultimately affect weight gain. More research needs to be done.”

Or maybe users get too stoned to get off the couch and grab a snack? Marijuana can in some cases lead to apathy. Who knows, maybe that encompasses an unwillingness to take the trouble to make meals.

So why not try the marijuana diet? First of all, look at those numbers again. If all you want is to lose 2 pounds, there are easier ways. Second, smoking of any type comes with costs, the scientists explain.

In separate news, an unrelated study by the Complutense University of Madrid and published in Forensic Science International reported on disturbing amounts of human feces in hashish sold on Spanish streets. Given their explanation, there is no reason to assume, or even hope, that this is a Spanish aberration.

Now, it is true they didn’t examine over 30,000 samples; they examined 90 they had bought on the streets of Madrid. They also found discrepancies between the fecal content of hash bought in the form of small bricks (which they charmingly called ingots) or “acorns.” They found human waste in both, but especially the acorns. Why is that? A big clue lies in how hash is smuggled into the country (think of it as the bottom line).

As if that weren’t enough, most of the hash bought from drug dealers was found to be contaminated by E. coli. “The vast majority of the samples they tested (88.3 percent) were deemed not suitable for consumption,” reported ZME Science.

Which begs the question of what E. coli, a part of the normal intestinal flora, does to one’s lungs. It can cause pneumonia, among other things. Now you know.