Whether you grew up with Cheech & Chong, Half Baked, or Pineapple Express, you know that the heroes of any good stoner comedy are usually a little bit, ahem, huskier than your standard square-jawed, impossibly ripped, Dwayne Johnson-style action hero.
But whatever Hollywood types like to imply about stoners, a new study suggests that people who smoke marijuana every day are built less like the big-boned Silent Bob, and more like his tall, lean buddy Jay. (No offense, Kevin Smith.)
That's right: Men and women who smoke marijuana daily tend to have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than people who don't, according to a study published in the September 2016 issue of The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics.
The researchers looked at two cohorts of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the largest ever survey of adolescents over time, and specifically analyzed responses from nearly 14,000 people when they were 18–26, and then again when they were 24–32. They specifically looked at people who smoked daily—and unlike other studies, the researchers accounted for physical activity, socioeconomic status, drinking, and use of other drugs, as well as studying both BMI and waistline size.
The findings: "Although marijuana use is commonly associated with increased appetite and the likelihood of weight gain," the researchers write, "results show that daily female marijuana users have a BMI that is approximately 3.1% lower than that of non-users; daily male users have a BMI that is approximately 2.7% lower than that of non-users."
Key words there: "Association." The study does not say that smoking pot makes you skinnier, only that it's linked—correlation, not causation. But while this study does run counter to pop culture stereotypes, it actually follows a few studies suggesting that marijuana use has a significant (if imperfect) health payoff:
- Marijuana users have a lower insulin resistance, lower BMIs, and smaller waistlines than people who don't, according to a 2015 study published in the Annals of Epidemiology.
- In overweight and obese people, smoking marijuana may actually compete with the desire to overeat, according to a 2005 study of morbidly obese women.
- There's some evidence that even though marijuana smokers eat more calories than non-smokers—specifically "fewer fruits, but sodium, pork, cheese, and salty snacks"—they statistically have a slightly lower BMI than non-smokers, according to results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published in 2001.
- While marijuana is a medically viable way to stimulate appetite and weight gain for certain people—chemotherapy patients, say—it doesn't seem to stimulate weight gain in normal-sized people. ("Maybe marijuana is a metabolic regulatory substance that increases body weight in low-weight individuals but not in normal-weight or overweight individuals," wrote the authors of the 2014 study published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience.)
And look, guys: Obviously we're not suggesting you hit up a dealer and demolish an entire quad—or even a joint for that matter—by yourself because you think it'll make you skinny. Again, the study only suggests there's a correlation between people who smoke pot and lower BMIs/smaller waistlines over time, not that it burns calories for you. As far as we know, there's no way to fake the fat off your body.
So no, pot's probably not gonna expose your six-pack as quickly as a life of intense workouts, boiled chicken breasts, and protein shakes. But if smoking weed is associated with dropping pounds over time, then maybe we need to shed the stereotype of chubby stoners for good, too. The Dude abides.