For decades, marijuana use has been associated with the “munchies.”
That stereotypical impulse to eat junk food would lead most people to expect that marijuana users tend to put on weight more quickly than those who don’t.
But new research suggests that may not be the case.
A recent study found people who used marijuana put on less weight, on average, than those who didn’t use cannabis products over a three-year period.
Everyone in the study put on weight. But those who used marijuana put on an average of two pounds less.
The researchers had expected the “munchies effect” to lead to greater weight gain, said Omayma Alshaarawy, a Michigan State University family medicine professor and lead author of the study.
But, she told Healthline, they weren’t “entirely surprised” by the results.
That’s because other studies have also indicated that marijuana users may be slower to gain weight. A 2011 study, for instance, found marijuana users were less likely to be obese than people who don’t use the drug.
Some studies have found cannabidiol, one of the compounds in marijuana, can help aid in weight loss. But whether marijuana use can slow weight gain — and, if so, why — is still an open question.
Studies like the new one try to take other variables into account, but they don’t always prove causation.
That is, marijuana hasn’t been proven to be the cause of slower weight gain — just that people who use it tend to gain weight slower.
So Alshaarawy cautioned that the notion marijuana might cause slower weight gain is only speculation.
If it does, though, it might be due to something in the way marijuana affects the body’s metabolism.
Or it might be due to something in how it affects the user’s behavior — like causing them to try to avoid that old munchies stereotype.
“It might be a behavioral effect as cannabis users are aware of the munchies effect and might therefore restrict their caloric intake when they are not using,” Alshaarawy said. “Further studies are needed.”