A new research study exploring the potential effects of cannabis on bone density has contributed to growing evidence that regular marijuana users are slimmer and more physically active than those who abstain from the drug. Researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University created the study to determine if frequent cannabis use might have an impact on users' bone mineral density, because cannabinoids are naturally involved in signaling within bone cells.
The researchers surveyed 4743 participants between 20 and 59 years of age, and grouped them into heavy, light, former, or never-users of cannabis. The study found that cannabis use did not, in fact, have any relationship to bone density. What the researchers did find, however, is that individuals who used cannabis five or more times a month had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who never smoked up.
“Heavy users of cannabis had a lower mean BMI compared to that of never users, with a mean BMI being 26.7 kg/m in heavy users and 28.4 kg/m in never users,” the study reported. Researchers also found that the heavy users were more likely to be physically active than those who used pot infrequently or not at all.
The results confirm the findings of several earlier studies. Last year, a study published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics also suggested that regular pot users had a lower BMI than non-users. “There is a popular belief that people who consume marijuana have the munchies, and so [they] are going to eat a lot and gain weight, and we found that it is not necessarily the case,” said lead author Isabelle C. Beulaygue.
A study from 2013 published in the American Journal of Medicine found that cannabis users had 16 percent lower levels of fasting insulin and 17 percent lower insulin resistance levels than abstainers. In 2012, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that pot users had a lower prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, as well as a lower chance of contracting the disease.
It is currently unknown exactly why cannabis users might be slimmer than non-users, but some researchers have suggested that cannabis may assist with breaking down blood sugar, which in turn may prevent weight gain. Further research will be necessary to pin down the exact reasons behind the weight differences between users and non-users.