Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Cannabis May Be Down To Fat Loss, New Study Suggests

A recent study suggests that the well-known anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis are at least partially caused by a reduction in body mass index (BMI).  

While it is well-established that obesity and inflammation are strongly linked, as are cannabis use and lower BMI, the mechanisms at play in the associations are not well understood. 

However, this new study may offer some insight. 

New study

Researchers in the United States set out to investigate the relationship between cannabis use and systemic inflammation. To do this, they followed 712 young people over a number of years, during which their substance use and BMI was tracked. Plasma samples were also taken.

Their assigned sex at birth and gender, as well as education, HIV status, cigarette, alcohol and polydrug use, which were all included as covariates.

Participants’ cannabis use was measured with the Cannabis Use Disorders Identification Test-Revised (CUDIT-R) and urine screening for THC.

It was found that in all covariates tested except BMI, a greater cumulative CUDIT-R score was associated with lower C-reactive protein (CRP) and lower interleukin-6, which are both biomarkers of systemic inflammation.

“These associations were attenuated when BMI was added to the model,” the authors wrote. 

This study suggests BMI may partially explain anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis.

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

Cannabis and BMI

I’ve previously written about how cannabis users have a lower BMI than non-users despite eating more calories. This may be explained by THC exposure counteracting the obesity-causing effects of high dietary omega-6 consumption, which is also known to cause inflammation. 

You see, it has been found that an increased ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids contributes to increased levels of endocannabinoids. In turn, this overstimulates CB1 receptors, leading to increased caloric intake, reduced metabolic rates and weight gain. 

This is why an increase in omega-6 to omega-3 ratios is associated with an increased risk of obesity. 

The regular consumption of THC downregulates endocannabinoid receptors, thus lowering endocannabinoid levels and reducing the likelihood of obesity (and insulin resistance).

Therefore, we can assume (as the authors of this study do) that cannabis improves metabolic health, lowers BMI and reduces inflammation by counteracting the negative effects of omega-6-rich seed oils.


This new study adds to our understanding of the well-established anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis. 

We now have a theory that cannabis lowers systemic inflammation on the body by reducing BMI. It may do this by counteracting the negative effects of high dietary omega-6 fatty acid consumption.  

As the study authors note, this new understanding may lead to more effective treatments for obesity and many other inflammatory conditions. 

Read: Why Do Cannabis Users Have Lower BMI And Less Risk Of Obesity Than Non-Users?

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