The nation’s obesity epidemic isn’t getting any better. Despite concerted efforts to improve the nation’s food system and fitness habits, recent data point to a continued rise in obesity rates. But researchers say we may be overlooking one of the most effective tools in fighting obesity: medical marijuana.
While bingeing “munchies” jokes often accompany marijuana use, Researchers from San Diego State University and Cornell University say the opposite also holds true. They noted that medical marijuana correlates with “a 2 percent to 6 percent decline in the probability of obesity.”
Looking at more than 20 years of data from the federal Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS), they noted that where medical marijuana laws had passed (between 1990-2012), there were also notable declines in obesity rates and BMIs.
Even when controlling for socioeconomic factors, the data still point to a lower rate of obesity. The researchers say there are a number of reasons why this may be the case. One reason is the use of medical marijuana for pain management, primarily among older populations. A reduction in chronic pain means people can be more active.
“So if medical marijuana reduces pain, it may be allowing those patients to be more active — and hence, burn more calories,” reports the Washington Post.
And for people age 18 to 24, medical marijuana use was associated with a decreased consumption of alcoholic beverages—many of which are high in calories.
While the findings don’t suggest using medical (or recreational) marijuana on its own will lead to weight loss, it does show promise and warrants further research into the possible benefits. But medical marijuana isn’t a golden ticket to health either. Recent research points to high levels of various harmful pesticides in certain strains.
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Medical marijuana image via Shutterstock