Is Marijuana the Next Big Obesity Cure?
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Smoking weed for a slimmer bod? It sounds contradictory given pot's tendency to induce the munchies—but according to British researchers, marijuana may actually help lower appetite and boost metabolism, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Animal tests revealed that cannabis acted as an appetite suppressant, but for only a short time; however, further research showed that certain compounds of the drug could actually impact fat levels and the body's response to insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar). “The results in animal models have been very encouraging,” says Steph Wright, director of research and development at GW Pharmaceuticals. “We are interested in how these drugs effect the fat distribution and utilization in the body as a treatment for metabolic diseases." So far, testing in mice showed that two cannabis compounds—THCV and cannabidiol—raised metabolism, leading to reduced levels of fat in the liver and lowering cholesterol. THCV was also found to increase the mice's sensitivity to insulin and also protect the cells that produce insulin. “Over all, it seems these molecules increase energy expenditure in the cells of the body by increasing the metabolism,” says Mike Cawthorne, research director at the University of Buckingham, who has been conducting the animal studies. Based on these findings, researchers hope to develop a drug to treat patients suffering from metabolic syndrome, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.