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Obesity and Medical Cannabis Treatment


Calling obesity, a complex disease, the Mayo Clinic defines excess body fat as a severe health risk rather than a cosmetic concern. Based on a body mass index of 30 or higher, obesity leads to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, all of which kill thousands annually. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer that are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death.” 

When that is coupled with the prevalence of obesity at 42.4% from 2017-2018, it is obvious Americans need to address that is killing them quickly. 

The complex disease seemingly has an easy answer, which is to consume less food. But it is not so effortless, with obesity caused by some underlying and uncontrollable factors including genetic, metabolic, hormonal, and behavioral issues. With as many treatments as reasons, one method of addressing the condition is with medical cannabis, according to The International Journal of Obesity.

“On the surface, one might assume that marijuana would only exacerbate the obesity epidemic as increased appetite is a well-known side effect; however, initial obesity research suggests that this assumption may be premature” according to 2019 published study, adding the non-psychoactive derivative of the plant Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) specifically eases obesity. “THCV has potential for the treatment of obesity and impaired glucose tolerance without the adverse events that resulted in the removal of rimonabant from the market.”

Obesity Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

While inherited genes are the first noted risk factor by the Mayo Clinic for obesity, lifestyle choices come in second, with the renowned medical institution reporting an unhealthy diet, liquid calories, and inactivity as the next most significant causes. Certain diseases and medications that treat underlying conditions can cause obesity, making it even more difficult for some to address the condition than others. Lastly, age and socioeconomics also play a part in the condition prevalence. 

Prevention and treatment of the condition first lie in making healthy lifestyle choices, including maintaining regular exercise and a healthy diet to maintain good BMI. Do to do so. The Mayo Clinic suggests, “monitoring your weight can tell you whether your efforts are working and can help you detect small weight gains before they become big problems.”

Leveraging Cannabinoids for Obesity

A 2018 study pointed out the noted paradox by The International Journal of Obesity, reporting “Theoretical Explanation for Reduced Body Mass Index and Obesity Rates in Cannabis Users.” Not only did the results “present meta-analysis (that) reveals significantly reduced body mass index and rates of obesity in Cannabis users, in conjunction with increased caloric intake,” it concluded that for one of the first times how medical cannabis can treat obesity. 

“We provide for the first time a causative explanation for this paradox, in which rapid and long-lasting downregulation of CB1R following acute Cannabis consumption reduces energy storage and increases metabolic rates, thus reversing the impact on body mass index of elevated dietary omega-6/omega-3 ratios,” reports the study.

While medical cannabis is proving to ease obesity, it is simultaneously treating two underlying conditions that cause a high BMI, including diabetes and cancer. As for the paradox of overweight people consuming cannabis that increases appetite, only further research will reveal why the anomaly. 

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Data Last Updated 12/01/2022

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