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In pop culture’s representation of the prototypical stoner, a lit joint is never too far from a bag of potato chips, frosted donuts, or stray pints of Ben & Jerry’s. 

But munchies or not, modern cannabis users are not always content stuffing their high faces deep in a bag of snacks. Instead, many extol the wonders of yoga, sports, and general exercise while under the plant’s influence. 

And now, adding to weed’s place in the worlds of health and wellness, a newly-published study found that marijuana use is correlated with lower rates of reported obesity.

According to Pacific Standard, the new research comes from a Michigan State University team lead by professor Omayma Alshaarawy. The team examined self-reported data from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions to compare the Body Mass Index and cannabis use of some 33,000 Americans over two separate annual survey collections, in 2001-2002 and 2004-2005. The study was published this month in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

“Over a three-year period, all participants showed a weight increase, but interestingly, those who used marijuana had less of an increase compared to those that never used,” Alshaarawy said in a press release. “Our study builds on mounting evidence that this opposite effect occurs.”

After combing through the data with a fine-toothed comb, Alshaarawy and her research fellows discovered that, on average, cannabis users gained two pounds less than non-users in the time between the two national surveys. And with a sample size to match most professional sports stadiums, the study’s lead author is confident that the conclusion is more than just happenstance. 

“An average 2-pound difference doesn’t seem like much, but we found it in more than 30,000 people with all different kinds of behaviors and still got this result,” Alshaarawy said. ”It could be something that’s more behavioral like someone becoming more conscious of their food intake as they worry about the munchies after cannabis use and gaining weight. Or it could be the cannabis use itself, which can modify how certain cells, or receptors, respond in the body and can ultimately affect weight gain.”

Of course, without further clinical research into the self-reported data, the connection between cannabis and obesity is still just a correlation and not a causal relationship. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t bring out the peer-reviewed data points next time someone tries to shame you for indulging in the munchies. Just make sure to get some stretches in after — we’ve got a reputation to keep up. 

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