Cannabis and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for weight loss?

Med Hypotheses. 2013 May;80(5):564-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2013.01.019. Epub 2013 Feb 11.


Obesity is one of the highest preventable causes of morbidity and mortality in the developed world [1]. It has been well known for a long time that exposure to cannabis produces an increase of appetite (a phenomenon referred to as the 'munchies'). This phenomenon led to an exploration of the role of the endocannabinoid system in the regulation of obesity and associated metabolic syndrome. This effort subsequently led to the development of a successful therapeutic approach for obesity that consisted of blocking the cannabinoid CB1 receptors using ligands such as Rimonabant in order to produce weight loss and improve metabolic profile [2]. Despite being efficacious, Rimonabant was associated with increased rates of depression and anxiety and therefore removed from the market. We recently discovered that the prevalence of obesity is paradoxically much lower in cannabis users as compared to non-users and that this difference is not accounted for by tobacco smoking status and is still present after adjusting for variables such as sex and age. Here, we propose that this effect is directly related to exposure to the Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in cannabis smoke. We therefore propose the seemingly paradoxical hypothesis that THC or a THC/cannabidiol combination drug may produce weight loss and may be a useful therapeutic for the treatment of obesity and its complications.

MeSH terms

  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss / drug effects*


  • Plant Extracts
  • Dronabinol