Frequent marijuana users are often characterized as having the munchies but maintaining a surprisingly slim physique.
How can that be?
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, may have uncovered the reason behind this phenomenon. However, they caution that the perceived health benefits come at a cost.
In a study published in Cell Metabolism on June 2, researchers found that frequent cannabis consumers tend to be leaner and have a lower risk of developing type two diabetes. To understand this effect, the researchers administered low doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, to adolescent mice. After the mice reached adulthood, the THC doses were discontinued, but the consequences persisted.
Male mice that had consumed THC during their “teenage” phase exhibited reduced fat mass, increased lean mass, higher body temperatures, and partial resistance to obesity and hyperglycemia. These mice were in a state referred to as “pseudo-lean.” However, the researchers also observed that these mice had a diminished ability to utilize fuel from fat stores, which could hinder their physical and cognitive functions, including attention span.
Similar characteristics have been observed in frequent human cannabis users, highlighting that the effects of cannabis extend beyond its psychoactive properties. According to Daniele Piomelli, one of the study’s authors and director of the university’s Center for the Study of Cannabis, the reason for these permanent changes surprised the researchers.
FightSaga FYI: The knock on the street as it relates to heavy, long-term marijuana use is its supposed detrimental impact on cognition, attention span, and paranoia. Studies are still being done to conclusively confirm if or how any of it is true.
THC exposure caused fat cells to produce proteins typically found only in muscle and heart tissues, while muscle cells produced fewer of the proteins they should. This disruption in protein production impairs the proper functioning of fat cells, including their ability to store and release nutrients.
The authors note that cannabis use is associated with a lower body mass index (BMI) and improved cardiometabolic risk. However, their findings suggest that the drug can lead to permanent disruptions in organ function, with potential implications for both physical and mental health.
Adolescent THC exposure may create a “pseudo-lean” state that appears healthy but is, in fact, rooted in organ dysfunction.
The study primarily focused on male mice, so further research is needed to explore potential gender-specific effects. Additionally, future studies should investigate THC-driven changes in other organ systems.