Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Medical marijuana reduces obesity, says study

The obesity epidemic—especially high in rural areas—can be reduced through legalization of medical marijuana, says a study by researchers at San Diego State University and Cornell University published in Health Economics. Researchers said that enforcing medical marijuana laws is "associated with a 2 percent to 6 percent decline in the probability of obesity" and leads to "$58 to $115 per-person annual reduction in obesity-related medical costs."

Researchers, who analyzed more than 20 years of data from the federal Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, "found that passage of medical marijuana laws was associated with declines in obesity and overall BMI, controlling for social and economic factors, policy differences and food prices," Christopher Ingraham reports for The Washington Post.

Since older patients are more likely to be prescribed medical marijuana for chronic pain, reduction of pain allows them to be more active, Ingraham writes. Among adults ages 18 to 24, researchers found that prescribing medical marijuana reduced the probability of alcohol consumption by 3.1 percent and binge drinking by 4.8 percent. Researchers "posit that medical marijuana availability may lead some younger adults to 'substitute away from highly caloric alcoholic beverages toward a lower-calorie marijuana 'high,' resulting in lower body weight and likelihood of obesity.'"

Critics of legalizing medical marijuana say the study is misleading, Ingraham writes. For instance, since Colorado legalized marijuana, alcohol sales have actually risen. Also, Rosalie Pacula, director of the BING Center for Health Economics at the RAND Corp., said that "in a number of the states in this study, medical marijuana laws are still very new, so the data on the impact of those laws are relatively sparse." (Indianapolis Business Journal map)

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