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Marijuana Users Have Lower Body Mass Index than Non-Users Says University of Miami Study

Coral Gables, Fla. – September 20, 2016 – Those who use marijuana, commonly associated with “the munchies” or increased appetite and the likelihood of weight gain, actually have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-users, according to the results of a new study from the University of Miami School of Business Administration and Miller School of Medicine. The findings, published in the September issue of The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, shows that daily female marijuana users have a BMI that is about 3.1 percent lower than that of female non-users, and that daily male users have a BMI that is about 2.7 percent lower than male non-users. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight, used to classify overweight and obesity.

Researchers controlled for several other factors that could potentially correlate with BMI. The demographic variables included age, race, ethnicity, employment status, and marital status. They also controlled for cigarette smoking, other substance use and alcohol consumption, as well as measures of weekly exercise and self-rated health status.

“Our findings run counter to popular belief which associates marijuana use with laziness and increased appetite,” said Michael T. French, PhD, professor of health sector management and policy at the University of Miami School of Business Administration. “If marijuana use is significantly related to these physiological characteristics, you would expect a positive association with marijuana use and BMI. Our study has demonstrated the opposite,” added French, who conducted the study with lead investigator Isabelle Beulaygue, PhD, from the university’s Miller School of Medicine.

The researchers point out that the study results are correlational rather than causal and that it would be irresponsible to advocate for marijuana use as a dieting strategy. Future research could explore the metabolic and behavioral pathways underlying the negative associations between marijuana use and BMI.


Using data from the of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (sample size greater than 13,000 people), the researchers used econometric models to rigorously study the relationships between marijuana use and body mass index over six years vs. simply at one point in time. Their analyses included young adults over the age of 18, when the use of marijuana and other drugs ordinarily peaks.  Numerous sensitivity tests and alternative estimation techniques confirmed the core findings. For example, they also investigated the relationship between marijuana use and waist circumference, an alternative measure of body size. Like with BMI, it was found that marijuana use is negatively associated with waist circumference.

Here is a link to the full study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27572145.  


About the University of Miami School of Business Administration

The University of Miami School of Business Administration is a leader in preparing individuals and organizations to excel in the complex, dynamic, and interconnected world of global business. One of 12 schools and colleges at the University of Miami, the School offers undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, and executive education programs. With its location in a major center for international business, the School is acclaimed for its global perspective, student and faculty diversity, and engagement with the business community. More information about the University of Miami School of Business Administration can be found at www.bus.miami.edu.

About the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, an academic medical center founded in 1952, serves South Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean, and is home to some of the brightest minds in the world. Its 1,400 faculty members teach students who represent the future of medicine. Its scientists are currently pursuing more than 1,600 projects, including 960 clinical trials, funded by $254 million in external grants and contracts. UHealth physicians represent more than 100 specialties and subspecialties, and have nearly two million patient encounters each year. Miami-Dade County’s cultural diversity — more than half of its residents were born outside the U.S. — makes it a medical training ground of unmatched opportunity.


Tracy Simon
University of Miami School of Business Administration
tsimon@bus.miami.edu or tracy@tlsimonpr.com 

Jennifer Smith
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

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