Best Cannabis Strains for Obesity? Here’s What You Need to Know
Cannabis and obesity is a topic not often discussed. Which is odd, considering that cannabis is known for causing the munchies.
To get one thing clear from the start, there is no such thing as the “best marijuana strains to lose weight.” While cannabis may indeed hold potential in helping to increase metabolism and lower BMI (more on that later), there is no clinical research on the topic of using specific cannabis strains for obesity and weight loss.
There is, however, research on the general topic of cannabis and its relationship to weight and obesity. In this article, we discuss relevant published studies and highlight several strains that may be of interest to those looking to use cannabis as a means to improve daily health and wellness.
Frightening Statistics on Obesity in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 40% of U.S. adults struggle with obesity.
Indeed, many agree with the notion that obesity in the U.S. is now a pandemic. Much of this relates to the standard American diet and lifestyle, but what are folks doing – and what can they do – to help curb obesity? Is cannabis a practical option?
Based on research, the use of cannabis may help with obesity and weight loss in terms of influencing mechanisms related to metabolism.
Before we get into that discussion, however, let’s take a look at what obesity is.
Before We Get to the Cannabis Strains, What Is Obesity?
Harvard Health defines obesity as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or higher. BMI between 25.0 kg/m2 and 29.9 kg/m2 is defined as overweight.
BMI is a measurement derived from an individual’s height and weight. While Body Mass Index isn’t always the most reliable indicator for an individual’s general wellness, it serves as a reliable indicator for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
What Causes Obesity?
In general, the balance between calorie intake and energy expenditure determines a person’s weight. Therefore, the most common cause of obesity is a lack of physical activity combined with overeating.
With that being said, there are additional factors associated with obesity. Here are a few of the most common ones:
A person is more than likely to develop some type of obesity if one or both parents are obese.
2) Lack of Sleep
Research has suggested a possible relationship between lack of sleep and obesity. However, more research is needed to determine the exact physiological mechanism(s) responsible for this relationship.
3) Lack of Physical Activity/Exercise
Again, obesity is largely the result of a simple imbalance between energy intake and expenditure. People who consume a lot of calories (or even an average amount of calories) without engaging in activity to burn them off are more likely to develop obesity or gain excess weight.
Unfortunately, the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of many individuals is cause for concern regarding obesity. Whereas once individuals had to physically move their body to complete even the most mundane of daily tasks (i.e., cleaning the house, going out to buy food, etc.), much of this is seemingly becoming a thing of the past.
Certain medications can cause weight gain as an unintended side effect. Medications most often associated with weight gain include diabetes medications, antipsychotic medications, certain antidepressant medications, epilepsy medications, steroids, and certain blood pressure medications.
5) Psychological Factors
For some people, overeating can be triggered by mental health disorders. Binge eating is now considered a specific type of eating disorder. While the cause of binge eating is unknown, it may largely relate to stress, depression, and anxiety – all of which are on the rise, according to Harvard Health & Medicine.
Potential Relationships Between Marijuana Strains and Obesity
As we just discussed, obesity can be caused by a number of different factors – most of which are combined with overeating. Interestingly, it appears that cannabis users weigh less in general than non-cannabis users. This, of course, is odd, especially considering that cannabis is known to cause the munchies.
In a recent study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, scientists concluded that cannabis “may be a better option for weight loss than surgery or pharmaceuticals.”
“Cannabis ‘may be a better option for weight loss than surgery or pharmaceuticals.’”
-Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, Dec. 2018
Their conclusion was based on observations that THC works to downregulate CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), leading to reduced obesity rates.
As far as why downregulation of CB1 results in decreased rates of obesity – despite increased caloric intake – authors of the study theorize that “rapid and long-lasting downregulation of CB1R … reduces energy storage and increases metabolic rates, thus reversing the impact on [BMI] of elevated dietary omega-6/omega-3 ratios.”
In other words, despite the increased consumption of calories, it appears that THC consumption results in lower BMI via increased metabolic rates.
However, there is no current research on using specific cannabis strains for weight loss or obesity.
Based on the above-cited research discussing THC’s role in increased metabolic rates and downregulation of CB1, here are several of our favorite high-THC cannabis strains.
Marijuana Strains & Obesity: 5 Of Our Favorite High-THC Strains
The following should NOT be mistaken as a “list of the best marijuana strains for obesity.” Research suggests that THC may play a role in decreased BMI, and therefore decreased rates of obesity. The following are merely several of our team’s favorite all-time picks for high-THC cannabis.
Cannabis Strain #1 – Durban Poison
This popular strain from South Africa has been a favorite high-THC cultivar for years. Often regarded as a powerhouse marijuana strain, THC levels frequently reach as high as 26%. The resulting high is immensely potent and cerebral, meaning Durban Poison is unsuitable for inexperienced cannabis users.
Cannabis Strain #2 – Blue Dream
Another increasingly popular high-THC strain is the sativa-dominant hybrid Blue Dream. This cross between the sativa strain, Haze, and the indica-dominant hybrid, Blueberry, is known for offering a range of potential medical uses. It can also help keep users motivated and focused and even provide a boost of sativa-inspired energy.
Cannabis Strain #3 – Grapefruit
The Grapefruit strain, known as an energetic and joy-inducing stress reliever, reportedly can contain a THC content of between 20-25%. Also, most phenotypes boast roughly a 70:30 percent sativa/indica ratio, which potentially could help with a wide variety of medical conditions while making you feel active and motivated.
Cannabis Strain #4 – Northern Lights
As we mentioned above, one of the potential culprits of obesity is lack of sleep. Northern Lights is an iconic indica marijuana strain that is known to help aid sleep. It provides a relaxed body high and a feeling of intense sedation that can work wonders in terms of facing difficulties falling asleep for many users. With Northern Lights, it is essential to achieve the right level of dosing; if you get it right, however, you’ll likely experience a good night’s rest.
Is marijuana good for obesity and losing weight? This is an incredibly unusual topic, but there are specific strains that may help.
Updated on June 15, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Medical cannabis can be especially helpful for the goal of weight loss. You may already know that one of the main characteristics of cannabis is it can increase your desire to eat. However, what you probably don’t realize is there are also strains that can help you lose weight. Sure, marijuana often associates with “the munchies,” which could indeed lead to weight gain. But some studies indicate medical marijuana and weight loss is possible. Let’s learn more about this.
Medical Marijuana as an Alternative Treatment for Weight Loss
First, let’s take a look at how marijuana affects the body. Your endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an essential role in your body beyond interacting with cannabis.
Endocannabinoids are cannabis-like substances produced inside our bodies naturally.
The endocannabinoid system consists of three parts:
- Receptors spread out through your body and nervous system that bond with cannabinoids and endocannabinoids.
- Enzymes which help break cannabinoids and endocannabinoids down.
Your ECS isn’t just a natural part of your body — it’s a vital one. Marijuana and its two main cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have medicinal properties. Medical research suggests the scope and size of the endocannabinoid system has a lot to do with the far-reaching effects of the herb and these two cannabinoids.
Your body is continuously working to monitor essential functions and levels in your body. When something operates outside of the proper range, the body immediately activates the ECS to correct it. For example, when you become hot and begin sweating, it’s your ECS that works to cool you down. If your stomach starts to growl, that’s just your ECS reminding you to eat.
Your endocannabinoid system does this through cannabinoid receptors found in certain tissues. You have, at a minimum, two cannabinoid receptor types:
- CB1 receptor: Found in the spinal cord nerves and brain (central nervous system)
- CB2 receptor: Found in the nerves in your extremities (peripheral nervous system), specific cells in your immune system and your digestive system
It’s thought cannabinoid receptors are most plentiful in the central nervous system, and some researchers theorize we may even have a third as-yet-undiscovered receptor as well.
The ECS uses these receptors to regulate essential functions including the appetite and digestion.
“Marijuana diet” might sound contradictory given the herb is known for its notorious “munchies” side effect, which often causes many regular users to consume more calories than those who don’t use the herb. However, studies recently have indicated otherwise.
The American Journal of Medicine conducted one such study, surveying 4,657 adults. Out of these adults, 579 claimed to be regular marijuana users. The study found individuals who used marijuana a minimum of three to five times weekly had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels. Other studies have had similar results.
Some theorize medical weed regulates weight because it interferes with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors that regulate memory and appetite. When CBD triggers these receptors, it leads to a lapse in memory and the well-known insatiable appetite. However, over time, these receptors may start becoming desensitized, making regular marijuana users less likely to experience weight gain.
Others suggest obese individuals overeat because the process triggers the brain’s reward center, particularly when the chosen foods contain hefty amounts of refined starches and concentrated sugars. So, in a sense, the act of overeating acts like a drug, because it stimulates the same brain area — regular users of cannabis don’t need to overindulge like this because they have their own “high.”
The American Journal of Epidemiology published a report in 2011 that showed rates of obesity are around a third lower in people who smoked medical pot regularly than in those who didn’t smoke the herb at all. Additionally, cannabis also helps with stress, and stress is a common cause of obesity.
How Medical Marijuana Treats Weight Loss
No matter how much smoking of medical marijuana for weight loss you do, and no matter what strains you use, consuming a large number of calories every day without burning them off will lead to weight gain.
Some cannabis strains have been shown to help control appetite due to the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). THCV is a CB1 and CB2 receptor antagonist, meaning it blocks THC and prevents you from becoming high and getting the munchies. While it is still psychoactive like THC, it seems to take effect quicker, and the high you get is much shorter lived.
Some appetite-suppressing strains with THCV you could try are:
- Durban Poison: This strain is popular and comes from South Africa. It offers an earthy, sweet flavor packed with a ton of energy, thereby helping you stay active.
- Green Crack: Known for its sweet taste and quick high, this strain is growing in popularity. It received its name from Snoop Dogg due to its high-strung, quick-acting effects and short-lived high.
- Super Silver Haze: A cross between Haze, Northern Lights and Skunk #1, Super Silver Haze is a sativa-dominant strain offering a clear-headed cognitive high.
Although Super Silver Haze is categorized as a sativa, its parent strain, Northern Lights, does have indica qualities such as sleepiness hitting several hours after smoking. So, if you plan on using Super Silver Haze, be sure you stay active after using the strain to help keep your motivation.
Sativa cannabis strains, in general, are known for bringing more energy and focus. They don’t make you sleepy or keep you stoned for hours. Instead, they do the opposite, making them ideal marijuana and weight loss strains.
Try a sativa strain before a workout to help boost your energy levels and achieve your fitness goals more quickly.
Side Effects of Medical Marijuana
Cannabis can potentially produce certain physical and psychological side effects. Not everyone will experience the same side effects and what you experience will depend on the strain of marijuana you use and the method in which you use it.
It’s good to know the potential side effects in any event. Remember the side effects of the herb are typically much milder than those you’d experience with prescription medicines.
Some side effects of marijuana for weight loss you could experience are:
- Anxiety: Smoking cannabis could potentially produce paranoia episodes. Usually, this is mild and causes nothing more than a slight feeling of unease.
- Insomnia: While some report sleep problems with cannabis, there’s no strong evidence proving the herb causes sleep problems.
- Red eyes: This harmless side effect that only lasts as long as the other effects of weed.
- Short-term memory loss: There’s an association between marijuana and memory loss. But, the effects are short-term and go away once treatment has worn off.
The Best Ways to Use Medical Marijuana for Weight Loss
The ideal cannabis consumption method is your own choice. You have many delivery options to pick from, and each will have its impact on how cannabis affects you. Here are several ways to receive your treatment:
- Smoking: Smoking is a common way of using cannabis. However, smoking is likely harmful to your health. As with tobacco smoke, smoking weed produces toxins and tars you inhale along with the herb. You may wish to try vaping instead if you must inhale your cannabis treatment.
- Edibles: You may want to avoid high-caloric edibles that could contribute to weight gain, such as brownies for instance. However, indulging in a small treat infused with your favorite sativa strain can be just what you need to stay energized and motivated, without having to smoke the herb.
- Pure CBD: Pure CBD is a method of treatment becoming increasingly popular. You take CBD pills and oils like you would a pharmaceutical medication.
What Is Weight Loss?
Obesity is a growing concern throughout the U.S. as nearly 35 percent of all American adults are obese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) credits obesity as responsible for roughly 112,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Obesity among children is another growing concern in the U.S. with an obesity rate of 18.5 percent among children between the ages of 2 and 19.
Weight loss is a process by which people lose weight. People choose to lose weight for a variety of reasons, the most common of which are related to improving health and appearance. Healthy weight loss often is based on goals of reaching a body max index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 24.9, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Causes of Being Overweight
Most people who are overweight have reached this point through a combination of dietary choices and sedentary lifestyles. We are no longer a hunter-gatherer people that burns as many calories getting our food as we consume while eating it.
The wide availability of high-calorie and heavily-processed foods that pack on the pounds, coupled with jobs that are decreasingly physical, contributes widely to the growing obesity problem. Other factors may play a role in obesity, such as:
- Medical conditions
- Genetic predispositions
- Socio-economic issues
- Lack of sleep or insomnia
Because many factors can contribute, it never hurts to work in conjunction with a trusted physician to create an effective weight loss plan and to determine if there may be underlying causes of your current weight and health circumstances.
Symptoms of Being Overweight
Medically, obesity is a state in which your BMI exceeds certain standards. A normal BMI is no greater than 24.9 while a BMI of 25 to 29.9 indicates you are overweight. Beyond that, there are three classes of obesity based on BMI:
- 30-34.9: Obese (Class I)
- 25-39.9: Obese (Class II)
- 40 or greater: Extreme Obesity (Class III)
Because obesity is a condition that can affect your physical and emotional health, depression, social isolation, underachieving in the workplace and lack of confidence are all other symptoms that people who are overweight may experience.
Complications of Being Overweight
There are many health complications associated with being overweight. Some would argue that obesity, from a health perspective, can be as harmful as tobacco.
- Reduced quality of life: Diminished interest in activities and lack of confidence severely limit the quality of life you experience when obese.
- Greater risk of poor health conditions: This includes potentially lethal conditions like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some forms of cancer.
- Mental health disorders: This includes conditions such as depression, anxiety, and others.
- Sleep apnea: There is a strong correlation between obesity and sleep apnea which can disrupt sleep when untreated, leading to even greater risks of obesity.
- Pain: Whether from osteoarthritis or the added weight you carry around daily placing a strain on your back, joints, and muscles, pain is often a constant presence in those who are obese.
- Sexual dysfunction: Whether the result of health conditions related to obesity or a lack of confidence stemming from your weight, sexual dysfunction is yet another complication related to obesity.
Obesity is a condition that affects people on many fronts — not just what shows up on the scales. Because of this, it’s important to consider the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the condition as well.
Current Medical Treatments for Weight Loss
Americans widely use three primary methods of losing weight.
1. Traditional Weight Loss
This is an old-fashioned method of weight loss that involves cutting calories by making healthier food choices while simultaneously burning more calories through exercise.
Depending on your adherence to a healthy diet and exercise plan, it’s possible to lose approximately one to two pounds per week until you achieve your weight loss goals. This method can produce a slow, steady and sustainable weight loss if you’re willing to make major lifestyle changes.
2. Medically-Supervised Weight Loss
This style of weight loss often involves very strict dietary restrictions along with prescribed medications to assist in the weight loss process. Work with your primary physician or a trusted medical professional to discuss options available to you before resorting to facilities promising extreme weight loss results.
3. Surgical Weight Loss
A variety of weight loss surgeries are available today to help you lose weight by reducing the size of your stomach. Bariatric surgery can restrict the amount of food the stomach can hold or bypass the small intestine, effectively reducing the number of calories the body absorbs. The weight loss surgeries most commonly used today include:
- Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery: This procedure reduces the size of the stomach by surgically creating a tiny pouch for food. Then the small intestine is cut to connect to the new food pouch, bypassing part of the small intestine and reducing the number of calories your body absorbs.
- Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding: This surgery creates a smaller pouch for your stomach with the use of a band containing an inflatable balloon that makes your stomach feel smaller and fuller. This procedure does not bypass any of the small intestines or reduce calorie or nutrient absorption.
- Sleeve gastrectomy: This surgery removes part of the stomach, creating a tube-like structure with what remains. It reduces the amount of food the stomach can hold and the amount of ghrelin, an appetite-regulating hormone, reducing your desire to eat.
- Duodenal switch with a biliopancreatic diversion: This procedure begins like the sleeve gastrectomy then closes off the middle section of the intestine, bypassing the area completely before connecting the end of the small intestine directly to the duodenum, which is the part of the intestine immediately after the stomach. This surgery limits the absorption of calories and nutrients in addition to making the stomach smaller.
Surgery is the riskiest of the primary weight loss methods you can use today but helps to fuel your weight loss efforts and drive by jump-starting your weight loss efforts. It helps to sustain motivation to see pounds melt off quickly though it is up to you to sustain the weight loss and maintain the results.
How to Begin Medical Marijuana Treatment for Weight Loss
So, does marijuana make you lose weight? When used properly and combined with a healthy diet and exercise, it could. Before you begin your medical marijuana and weight loss treatment, however, you’ll want to be sure you know your state laws surrounding it.
Medical marijuana could help you lose weight. Learn more about treatment options, strains and what symptoms cannabis can help you with.