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by Bethan Rose
I know what you’re thinking… how can a plant that is notorious for giving people the munchies also promote weight loss? Typical “stoner” stereotypes suggest that smoking marijuana will lead to binge eating and weight gain. Well it’s a little complicated, but yes, it’s possible to lose weight while using marijuana. In fact, medical marijuana is known to help ailments such as anorexia and help increase appetite in cancer patients, but now research shows it can be used to help lose weight. Below, we’ll go over the strains that promote weight loss and introduce the cannabinoid responsible for appetite suppression—THCV.
You can use cannabis while losing weight through the appetite suppressant cannabinoid THCV or through using the infamous munchies wisely to your advantage. Research shows that cannabis consumers are generally a slimmer population with lower fasting insulin levels compared to those who do not consume cannabis. Before we get into how marijuana can be used for weight loss and which strains are best, let’s have a look at the cannabinoids involved.
It is believed that consumers who use strains that share a lineage with the above strains will also benefit from THCV. If you have chosen to consume THCV strains simply for weight loss, try microdosing. For general information on cannabis strains for beginners check out our article here.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) are two cannabinoids that play significant roles in our appetite and metabolism while under the influence of cannabis. THC stimulates your appetite and is responsible for the munchies, while THCV acts as an appetite suppressant. While THC is an intoxicating compound in marijuana, THCV can be consumed without the intoxicating effects commonly associated with psychoactive compounds (5). THCV antagonizes, or decreases, the activity of the CB1 receptor in relatively small doses while activating it at higher doses. Evidence suggests that cannabis users are less likely to be overweight or obese. Researchers hypothesize that decreasing CB1 receptor activation leads to healthier weight (2).
If you are looking to eat less and suppress your appetite, then THCV is cannabinoid you’re looking for. A study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research examined THCV on appetite in rodents and found that the cannabinoid decreased appetite, increased satiety and up-regulated energy metabolism (5). THCV has gained fame for its rarity and suggested health benefits.
Another study published in Diabetes Care found that “compared with placebo, THCV significantly decreased fasting plasma glucose” (4). Decreasing fasting plasma glucose is significant for controlling type 2 diabetes in patients. The same study found that the cannabinoid was well tolerated; in order words, there were no significant adverse effects of consuming THCV.
Researchers tested over 157 plants around the world for their THCV content for a study in the American Journal of Botany. They found that the highest THCV content is found in cannabis plants that originate from South Africa, India, Nepal, and parts of eastern Asia (6). The highest testing flower for THCV at the 2014 High Time Times Seattle U.S Cannabis Cup was Durban Poison. It is important to remember that not all strains of marijuana contain THCV, so choosing the right one is important, especially if you only start consuming cannabis for weight loss and for appetite suppression.
A 2013 study with over 4,000 participants showed that marijuana use was associated with smaller waist circumferences, and current marijuana users showed lower levels of fasting insulin. Elizabeth Penner, Hannah Beuttner and team conducted the study, titled “The Impact of Marijunana Use on Glucose, Insulin and Insulin Resistance Among US Adults.” They explained that “epidemiologic studies have found lower prevalence rates of obesity and diabetes mellitus in marijuana users when compared with people who have never used marijuana” (1). The team found that marijuana use was associated with smaller waists and lower levels of fasting insulin. Studies have also shown that marijuana users can have a lower BMI than non-users. This suggests that there is a connection between cannabinoids (THC, THCV, CBD, etc) and the peripheral metabolic process.
In a separate study, Thomas Clark, Jessica Jones and team found that cannabis can “reverse the impact of modern American diet,” which is done by “reducing effects of an elevated ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids on endocannabinoid (eCB) tone.” The authors go on to explain that dysregulation of eCB leads to the development of obesity and metabolic disorders. Modern American diets often lead to an overstimulation of the CB1 receptor in the endocannabinoid receptor, causing imbalance in the body. Fortunately, the CB1 receptor is one of two receptors that cannabinoids bind to, which then encourages homeostasis and weight loss through the appetite suppression effects of THCV. The same study concluded by stating that cannabis consumers were associated with reduced obesity rates (2).
Authors of The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids (published by the National Academy of Sciences) reviewed past studies and reported that research has shown that cannabis use “was associated with a lower BMI or a lower prevalence of obesity, or both” or was shown “to have no association with BMI or obesity” (3). Obesity has almost tripled in the last decade and that it is a dominant risk factor for developing diabetes (3). Since the cannabinoid called THC stimulates appetite and promotes adipogenesis (the production of body fat), it could promote weight gain, thus increasing the risks of developing diabetes. However, it is important to note that there is not enough research to say so for certain. Fortunately, THCV negates some of the effects of any present THC in the cannabis product(s) you are consuming. In other words, while THC may increase risk, though not significantly, THCV decreases risks associated with weight gain, such as diabetes, by suppressing appetite.
While there are multiple other studies on cannabis and obesity, such as Marijuana and Body Weight (7) and Obesity and Cannabis Use: Results from 2 Representative National Surveys (8), The results of these studies yield similar results, which can be generally summarized as:
Does everyone get the munchies? The answer depends on the cannabinoids consumed, so technically everyone can get munchies, but not all the time. For example, should you consume a strain such as Willie Nelson, which is specifically bred for its THCV content, you will not get the munchies; however, the same cannot be said for consuming a strain such as Pineapple Kush, which is notorious for inducing the munchies.
Tamas Horvath, lead author of a study conducted by a team of researchers at Yale School of Medicine, explained that they “were surprised to find that the neurons we thought were responsible for shutting down eating, were suddenly being activated and promoting hunger, even when you are full. It [cannabis] fools the brain’s central feeding system” (9).
For those who are unable to find and consume strains high in THCV for appetite suppression, here are some tips for how to use appetite-stimulating strains to your advantage for weight loss:
If you are a frequent cannabis consumer and are looking to lose weight, then try to make a few changes to your choice of snacks and meals. Conventional advice suggests that one should eat less to lose weight while many believe that the key to losing fat is to eat more of the right types of food and burn more.
If you do not exercise and eat well for your body, smoking weed or consuming edibles that do not contain THCV will likely not lead to weight loss. Manipulating the munchies for your benefit may be more work, but it is worth it. When you eat more nutritious, fibrous, and quality foods, you’re more physically and emotionally satisfied than when you spend your energy on restricting yourself.
We all know that cannabidiol (CBD) is widely used and researched for its medicinal properties. It makes sense to assume that this cannabinoid would also be involved in the process of weight loss. Actually, CBD does not appear to suppress or stimulate appetite and metabolism at all. Thankfully, cannabis plants have many cannabinoids, just like the human body.
Like all weight loss strategies, frequent exercise is key to weight loss, although your eating habits will determine whether you succeed or fail in your quest. To benefit from THCV’s appetite suppressant or THC’s munchies, you can consume them as usual (inhalation, edibles, or whatever your personal preference is). Besides weight loss, cannabinoids may have many benefits to your health, which comes as a package when consuming it. Take charge of your health and weight, stay lifted and happy strain hunting.
Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.
1. Penner, E. A., Buettner, H., & Mittleman, M. A. (2013). The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults. The American Journal of Medicine, 126(7), 583-589. https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343%2813%2900200-3/abstract.
2. Clark, T. M., Jones, J. M., Hall, A. G., Tabne, S. A., & Kmiet, R. L. (2018, December 27). Reduced Body Mass Index and Obesity Rates in Cannabis Users. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.genengnews.com/insights/reduced-body-mass-index-and-obesity-rates-in-cannabis-users/.
3. (2017, January 12). The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. The National Academies of Sciences. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24625/the-health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids-the-current-state.
4. Jadoon, K. A., Ratcliffe, S. H., Barrett, D. A., Thomas, E., Stott, C., Bell, J. D., Tan, G. D. (2016). Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Group Pilot Study. Diabetes Cares, 39(10), 1777-1786. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/39/10/1777.
5. Abioye, A., Ayodele, O., Marinkovic, A., Patidar, R., Akinwekomi, A., & Sanyaolu, A. (2020). Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV): A commentary on potential therapeutic benefit for the management of obesity and diabetes. Journal of Cannabis Research. https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-020-0016-7.
6. Hillig, K. W., & Mahlberg, P. G. (2004). A chemotaxonomic analysis of cannabinoid variation in Cannabis (Cannabaceae). American Journal of Botany, 966-975. https://bsapubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3732/ajb.91.6.966.
7. Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2014). Marijuana and Body Weight. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 11(7-8), 50-54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4204468/.
8. Strat, Y. L., & Foll, B. L. (2011). Obesity and Cannabis Use: Results From 2 Representative National Surveys. American Journal of Epidemiology, 174(8), 929-933. https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/174/8/929/155851.
9. Peart, K. N. (2015, February 18). Mulling the marijuana munchies: How the brain flips the hunger switch. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://news.yale.edu/2015/02/18/mulling-marijuana-munchies-how-brain-flips-hunger-switch.
10. Gannon, M., Nuttall, F., Lane, J., Fang, S., Gupta, V., & Sandhofer, C. (1996). Effect of 24 hours of starvation on plasma glucose and insulin concentrations in subjects with untreated non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Metabolism, 45(4), 492-497. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8609837/.
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