Can physique mass index clarify marijuana’s anti-inflammatory results?

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“BMI may partially account for the apparent anti-inflammatory effects.”

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Feb 04, 2022February 4, 20222 minutes read Join the conversation “Research on the mechanisms linking cannabis use, adiposity and inflammation may uncover promising intervention targets.” / Photo by patpitchaya /iStock / Getty Images Plus

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A new US study suggests body mass index (BMI) may be a factor in realizing anti-inflammatory benefits of the plant.

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“BMI may partially account for the apparent anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis use,” authors write in the study, published online this week in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Studies dating back a decade or more acknowledge that cannabis has long been accredited with having anti-inflammatory properties. A systematic review released just last year used pre-clinical in vivo studies to gain “insight into cannabinoid-mediated pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine responses,” which help kickstart an immune cell to direct other cells on what to do.

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In the latest study, investigators report they wanted to clarify the pathways connecting cannabis use and systemic inflammation.

They considered the experience of 712 sexual and gender minority youth assigned male at birth. Subjects had substance use assessed during six biennial visits, with BMI measured and a plasma sample taken during the final one.

In models including all covariates except BMI, authors write that a greater cumulative Cannabis Use Disorders Identification Test-Revised score was associated with lower C-reactive protein and lower interleukin-6, both biomarkers of systemic inflammation.

“These associations were attenuated when BMI was added to the model,” the study points out. “This suggests BMI may partially explain anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis,” the study notes.

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“Research on the mechanisms linking cannabis use, adiposity (defined as severely or morbidly overweight) and inflammation may uncover promising intervention targets,” the authors suggest.

A study out of Brazil and published in 2021 explained that “storage of excess fat in the adipose tissue triggers an inflammatory process, which makes obesity a low-grade chronic inflammatory disease.”

A meta-analysis identified significantly reduced BMI and rates of obesity in those who use cannabis. A meta-analysis identified significantly reduced BMI and rates of obesity in those who use cannabis. Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto

The narrative review determined that phytocannabinoids, namely cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant, “have therapeutic potential due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties.”

A meta-analysis, published this time in 2018, identified significantly reduced BMI and rates of obesity in those who use cannabis.

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Using cannabis to treat obesity has also garnered considerable attention, including from researchers at the University of Toronto. That’s a question Justin Matheson, who is among the inaugural cohort of the Toronto Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Consortium fellows, is hoping to help answer.

“There are interesting parallels between obesity and overeating, and addiction or substance use disorders,” Matheson has said. “Both involve harmful behavioral patterns that lead to excessive intake of food or psychoactive drugs.”

Some research has identified a positive link between cannabis use and exercise. Indeed, a study assessing the relationship between the two in young and middle-aged adults found that, contrary to much of the available literature, there may be a positive link between the two.

And last December, Colorado researchers put out a call for participants as they probe how varying levels of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD can impact things like enjoyment, motivation and pain during exercise.

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