More THC, less body fat – new study tells us why

Cannabis and weight loss: microscopic photo of adipose tissue

The connection between cannabis and weight loss is paradoxical. Consuming the plant can improve the appetite of patients with cancer and anorexia. But studies also show that on the whole, cannabis consumers have lower body mass compared to those who don’t partake.

Tetrahydrocannabinvarin (THCv), a cannabinoid found in strains like true Durban Poison, is known for its appetite-decreasing effects. Cannabis products with THCv may also promote a clear-headed, caffeinated type of energy.

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Connection between CB1 receptors, THC, and body mass index

New research from the University of California Irvine has revealed more about the connection between cannabis consumption and body fat. Researchers noted the anti-obesity qualities of the plant in combination with the mechanism of cannabinoid receptors in fat tissue, and they wanted to learn more.

The study identifies the mechanisms at play when cannabis compounds break down fat and fatty acids and melt away energy. The plant does this productively by countering the endocannabinoid signals to adipose, the liver, and other organs.

THC congregates in fat deposits, fully engaging CB1 receptors. Studies have shown that activating CB1 receptors triggers fat tissue development– which confounded researchers alongside the data mentioned above showing that cannabis consumers have a lower body mass index (BMI).

To further investigate, the team posited that much regular cannabis use in adulthood started in the teen years. This thought opened a query: what if adolescent cannabis use triggers inappropriate CB1 activation?

Finding the truth behind THC and fat tissue

In the controlled rodent study, three groups of mice were given 5 milligrams of THC daily and observed. Male mice in the cannabis-consuming group showed lower body mass and energy metabolism. Researchers observed eating habits, activity levels, and other mitigating factors, but none correlated to lower body fat.

These results could not be replicated in young adult mice. Male mice also showed a higher energy expenditure (EE) and respiratory exchange rate (RER), or the intake ratio of carbon dioxide to oxygen.

The sobered-up mice had so little THC in their system that it was untraceable that the EE and RER decreased. And while fat, body mass, and water weight remained the same once the cannabis left their system the mice did gain more lean mass.

RELATED: Marijuana users less likely to gain weight than non-users, study finds

Other findings from the study

Researchers also tested the groups’ abilities to regulate temperature, putting the mice into a cold space and monitoring how quickly they returned to homeostasis. The temps of cannabis-dosed mice plateaued at a significantly higher level compared to the control group mice.

This research illuminates the cannabinoid mechanisms in the human body– showing that cannabis use in adolescents can forever alter the function of CB1 receptors. The results prove that with more scientific understanding, cannabis could be used to treat various conditions.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.