CannaMed Cut The Fat

CannaMed Cut The Fat

Story By NICO

     Cannabis use is commonly associated with the “munchies” and THC is even used medicinally to reduce nausea and stimulate appetite in cancer and HIV patients [1, 3].

     So how is it that frequent cannabis users average a lower body mass index (BMI) than nonusers [2]? A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Calgaryrevealed that prolonged THC use maintains a favorable gut microbiota ratio for reducing weight gain in obese mice [1].

     The study observed the effects of daily THC ingestion on both lean and diet-induced obese mice. The researchers administered 2 mg/kg body weight of THC per day for 21 days to the lean and obese mice, measuring changes in weight, fat mass, energy (calorie) intake, gut transit time, gut microbiota, and locomotor activity as compared to the control groups who were not receiving any THC. For an additional 7 days, the researchers doubled the daily THC dose to 4 mg/kg and observed the effects. They found that the THC treated obese mice kept a favorable gut microbiota profile while being fed a high fat diet while the non THC treated obese mice developed the
unfavorable microbiota balance that normally occurs through diet-induced obesity.

     Past research has shown that the ratio of gut microbiota in a host can cause an increase in body weight by disrupting gut hormone production and causing changes in caloric intake [1]. However, because of THC’s positive effect on gut microbiota, the THC treated obese mice gained less weight and fat mass, and also had a reduced caloric intake as compared to the non-THC treated group. It is important to note that locomotor activity of the obese mice was unaffected at the doses of THC they were ingesting, meaning that the reduced caloric intake was not due to a sedative effect.

     The lean THC treated and non-THC treated mice had no significant effects on weight, fat mass or caloric intake, but they were not being fed a high fat or high calorie diet.

     Logic would suggest that prolonged THC intake would help to maintain a positive gut microbiota and therefore reduce weight gain in overfed lean mice as well as the obese mice. However, further study is needed.

     A related study was recently conducted on 768 Inuit adults. Researchers found that cannabis use was associated with a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) [2]. It would be interesting to further study their gut microbiota and see if THC played a role in maintaining the positive gut balance that would reduce weight gain. If this is the case, we could conclude that regular THC use can be a beneficial tool for healthy weight management in humans as well as mice.

     As humans are faced with a daily onslaught of gut destroying environmental factors such as antibiotics, pesticides, and chlorinated drinking water, it is nice to know that THC can play a role in protecting the gut microbiota that is responsible for reducing weight gain. More study is needed to determine if THC can actually correct an unbalanced gut flora, or if it just maintains an already balanced gut. Maybe THC will one day be found to be on par with natural probiotics such as yogurt, fermented vegetables, and kombucha.

  1.  Cluny NL, Keenan CM, Reimer RA, Le Foll B, Sharkey KA (2015) Prevention of Diet Induced Obesity Effects on Body Weight and Gut Microbiota in Mice Treated Chronically with Tetrahydrocannabinol. PLoS ONE. 10(12): e0144270. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144270
  2.  Ngueta, G., Bélanger, R. E., LaouanSidi, E. A. and Lucas, M. (2015), Cannabis use in relation to obesity and insulin resistance in the Inuit population. Obesity, 23: 290–295. doi: 10.1002/oby.20973
  3.  Smith LA, Azariah F, Lavender VTC, Stoner NS, Bettiol S. Cannabinoids for nausea and vomiting in adults with cancer receiving chemotherapy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD009464. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009464.pub2.