CannaTrials adheres to evidence-based medicine – making statements based on medical evidence. This page is excerpted and quoted from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.    A Committee of over 40 experts, researchers, and reviewers in The Health and Medicine Division published a 486 page report in 2017 entitled “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.If you would like to access the entire report you may do so by clicking this link.

Medical Marijuana and Anorexia and Weight Loss

“Anorexia and weight loss are common side effects of many diseases, especially cancer. And prior to the availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy, a wasting syndrome was a frequent clinical manifestation in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and advanced acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The labeled indications for dronabinol were expanded in 1992 to include treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS (IOM, 1999, p. 156).

There is some evidence for oral cannabinoids being able to increase weight in patients with the HIV-associated wasting syndrome and anorexia nervosa. No benefit has been demonstrated in cancer-associated anorexia-cachexia syndrome. The studies have generally been small and of short duration and may not have investigated the optimal dose of the cannabinoid. In one study in HIV patients, both dronabinol and inhaled cannabis increased weight significantly compared to the placebo dronabinol. Cannabis has long been felt to have an orexigenic effect, increasing food intake (Abel, 1975). Small residential studies conducted in the 1980s found that inhaled cannabis increased caloric intake by 40 percent, with most of the increase occurring as snacks and not during meals (Foltin et al., 1988). Hence, the results of the clinical trials in AIDS wasting and cancer-associated anorexia-cachexia syndrome demonstrating little to no impact on appetite and weight were somewhat unexpected. One could postulate that perhaps other components of the plant in addition to THC may contribute to the effect of cannabis on appetite and food intake. There have not been any randomized controlled trials conducted studying the effect of plant-derived cannabis on appetite and weight with weight as the primary endpoint. This is, in part, due to existing obstacles to investigating the potential therapeutic benefit of the cannabis plant.

4-4(a) There is limited evidence that cannabis and oral cannabinoids are effective in increasing appetite and decreasing weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS.
4-4(b) There is insufficient evidence to support or refute the conclusion that cannabinoids are an effective treatment for cancer-associated anorexia-cachexia syndrome and anorexia nervosa.[1]

[1] The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research | The National Academies Press. 2017. Pages 94-97. Download the complete 486 page report.

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