“Dude, where’s my fat?”

Attention, daily marijuana users: according to a recently published study, you may be more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI) or less likely to be obese or overweight than non-users. Got that? Hello? Are you there? Can you hear me?

But, hold on, Mr. Hand, you may ask. Doesn’t smoking weed, ganja, cannabis, reefer, Mary Jane or whatever you call it give you the munchies and make you go to White Castle? Many people who have tried marijuana (and inhaled while doing so) will note this connection. Indeed, a study conducted by researchers from Yale published in the journal Nature  consisted of giving mice cannabis (dude, stoned mice) and found that this suppressed their hypothalamic pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons. Huh? The POMC neurons are a group of nerve cells in the brain that seem to tell you that you are full or at least not hungry. Thus, apparently your brain on weed says, “Full? I’m not full,” leading to situations such as the following from the movie Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle:

Harold: I want 30 sliders, five french fries and four large cherry Cokes.

Kumar: I want the same except make mine Diet Cokes.

Therefore, won’t eating more mean that you will gain weight? You may ask, hasn’t such a relationship already been published in journals like The Journal of Really Obvious Stuff? Well, obesity and weight are more complex than simply eat more, gain weight and eat less, lose weight. (And you better write this down…) Whether you gain weight also depends on what you eat, when you eat, what else do you do and what and who else is around you. Obesity is caused by the biological, behavioral, social, environmental, economic, cultural and other systems around you. Obesity is totally a systems problem. Totally. Indeed, studies have shown that marijuana user may actually have lower BMIs. The most recent is a study recently published in theJournal of Mental Health Policy and Economics. In this study, University of Miami researchers determined that in a sample of over 13,000 people, women who do the dope daily had on average BMIs approximately 3.1% lower than that of non-users. Men who had the herb each day had BMIs approximately 2.7% lower than that of non-users. Another earlier study of the Inuit population published inObesity Biology and Integrated Physiology found that pot users were on average thinner and had lower blood glucose levels. There are others such as this one in the American Journal of Epidemiology that have had similar results.

Harold: Dude, we’re so high right now!

Kumar: We’re not low!

Then, does this mean that marijuana can be an obesity-prevention measure when smoked regularly, as Steve Martin once did?

I used to smoke marijuana. But I’ll tell you something: I would only smoke it in the late evening. Oh, occasionally the early evening, but usually the late evening–or the mid-evening. Just the early evening, mid-evening and late evening. Occasionally, early afternoon, early mid-afternoon, or perhaps the late mid-afternoon. Oh, sometimes the early-mid-late-early-morning…But never at dusk.

Mike Adams, writer for Merry Jane, a cannabis-focused website, seems to think so. He claims that this new study “suggests that the United States might have a shot at controlling its obesity problem by simply legalizing marijuana across the entire nation.”

Hold your unicorns. This may be taking the study findings a bit too far. Just finding that ganja users have lower BMIs does not necessarily mean that the “weed is the weason.” These studies may not have controlled for many other factors that may have been different between the users and non-users and be leading to the findings. Maybe there are other qualities that pot users have that make them less likely to be overweight or obese. For example, do pot users live in neighborhoods that have better access to healthier foods? Do they have more available money to purchase healthier foods or participate in physical activity? Could pot be replacing higher-calorie food or beverage items such as alcohol? Could they be getting more physical activity than non-users? After all, Harold and Kumar spent a whole night searching around, hang-gliding and even riding a cheetah, all in one night.

On the other hand, could cannabis have some effect on physiology and metabolism? For instance, in a study published in Phytomedicine, researchers observed that rats injected with cannabis extract experienced less weight gain, lower blood sugar levels and up-regulation of various genes. Yes, pot may be affecting the body in ways that we don’t yet realize. Could marijuana have more positive medicinal effects than currently realized? Case in point, as reported recently in the American Journal of Public Health, medical marijuana legalization may be associated with reduced opioid use and overuse.

Original Article via Forbes