Weed and Weight: Why are Cannabis Consumers Slimmer?

January 18, 2020

Diet. Detox. Paleo. Parisian. Whatever you want to call it, nearly half of Canadians are following some sort of food plan to lose weight, according to a recent national poll.

Whether for health or aesthetic reasons (or a bit of both), the desire to slim down feeds billions of dollars into the weight loss industry every year. And yet, as studies keep telling us, results are almost never permanent. It’s enough to make the diet-weary roll a fat one and forget it—which, coincidentally, may be an effective slimming strategy in itself.

Dr. Stephen Glazer, chief medical officer at CannaWay Clinic and bariatric expert, says while research is still in its infancy, studies suggest the endocannabinoid system “contributes significantly to both obesity and metabolic disorders.”

The fatty acid connection

Simply put, the endocannabinoid system is a network of cellular receptors in the body that help keep our system in balance. It is the CB1 receptors within the endocannabinoid system that interact with THC, leaving us feeling euphoric (or “high”).

Glazer says these same CB1 receptors play a large role in energy uptake, storage, and conservation. When this receptor is activated by THC, either through ingestion or inhalation, it heightens our taste and smell pathways and activates our brain’s appetite centre, colloquially known as the “munchies”. This is why he says his patients at CannaWay receiving chemotherapy can benefit from medical cannabis to help them rebuild a healthy appetite.

But aren’t we talking about losing weight? Yes.

As it turns out, Glazer says new research looking at the average Western diet, which tends to be high in omega-6-fatty-acids and low in omega-3-fatty-acids, points to chronic and excessive stimulation of the CB1 receptors.

To put it in perspective, the ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio for the human body is 3:1. But in the average Western diet, this can be as high as 20:1. Overactive CB1 receptors could be throwing the entire endocannabinoid system off balance.

Excessive stimulation of our cannabinoid receptors (CB1) can result in an increased rate of obesity along with unhealthy lipid profiles, insulin resistance, inflammation, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Stephen Glazer

Says Glazer: “Excessive stimulation of our cannabinoid receptors (CB1) can result in an increased rate of obesity along with unhealthy lipid profiles, insulin resistance, inflammation, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”

In other words, the system that keeps our bodies in balance is itself out of balance, thanks to the foods we’re eating.

Cannabis to the rescue?

While it seems counterintuitive that something responsible for a food frenzy can also help you shed pounds, research suggests regularly activating CB1 with cannabis can help calm this overstimulated receptor over the long term, a phenomenon called down-regulation.

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