Researchers found that men who used cannabis had a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-users.
Findings in a new study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine suggest that long-term cannabis use is associated with a lower body mass index (BMI).
Body mass index is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. The measure is used to screen for weight categories that can increase the risk for serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and even cancer. A high BMI can be an indicator of unhealthy levels of body fat.
High body fat is a major health issue in the United States. More than one in three adults in the United States were considered to be overweight, according to 2013-2014 data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. About one in 13 were considered to have extreme obesity.
To assess the association between long-term cannabis use and cardiometabolic risk factors like BMI, researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Pittsburgh used a longitudinal study design comprised of 253 men from the Pittsburgh Youth Study.
The researchers examined cardiometabolic risk factors in the men for 25 years, from age seven to 32. Cannabis use was measured every year between ages 12 and 20, and then again at ages 26, 29, and 32.
The study, released online ahead of print, revealed that greater cannabis exposure was linked to a relatively lower BMI.
“Cannabis use is associated with lower BMI and lower BMI is related to lower levels of risk on other cardiometabolic risk factors,” the researchers concluded.
The findings are consistent with those of previous studies concluding marijuana use is associated with lower body fat levels. Researchers from Oregon’s Health and Science University in 2017 found that those who consumed cannabis more than five times per month had an on average lower BMI compared to non-users. A 2016 study showed daily marijuana use to be associated with lower BMI in both men and women.
Cannabis and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors
The new study also revealed a positive link between cannabis use and a smaller waist to hip ratio (WHR), healthier cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower fasting glucose and triglycerides, and fewer metabolic syndrome criteria.
“With exception of BMI, cannabis users’ mean levels on cardiometabolic risk factors were generally below clinical cutoffs for high risks,” the study authors write. “Most associations between cannabis use and cardiometabolic risk factors remained after adjusting for tobacco use, childhood [socioeconomic status], and childhood health.”
After adjusting for adult BMI, these associations were no longer apparent. According to the researchers, this suggests that “that cannabis users’ relatively lower BMI might explain their lower levels of risk on other cardiometabolic risk factors.”