Does pot prevent obesity? What new marijuana study says

Got pot? If you're smoking marijuana for medical reasons, you could be breaking the law - or not. It depends on where you are. In the U.S., 18 states plus the District of Columbia now have laws on the books permitting the use of medical marijuana. But the laws differ widely in whom they allow to smoke and how much pot they are allowed to possess. Keep reading to see the details, as provided by Marijuana Policy Project and state resources. istockphoto

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(CBS) Move over, fad diets. Scientists have identified something else that might keep off excess weight.

Smoking pot.

That's right, marijuana users are less likely to be obese than their non-toking counterparts, according to a new study.

Doesn't pot-smoking cause the munchies?

Actually, the researchers behind the study had been expecting to find that marijuana smokers would weigh more than non-users.

"Cannabis is supposed to increase appetite," study author Dr. Yann Le Strat, a psychiatrist at Louis-Mourier Hospital in Colombes, France, told MSNBC. "We found that cannabis users are less likely to be obese than non-users. We were so surprised, we thought we had [made] a mistake."

For the study - published online in the August 24 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology - researchers analyzed data from two large population surveys of U.S. adults. The researchers found obesity rates in people who "just say no" were 22 percent and 25.3 percent in each survey, respectively. But study participants who puffed pot at least three times a week had obesity rates of 14.3 percent and 17.2. The study didn't actually prove smoking pot causes weight-loss.

"There could be many other reasons why pot smokers have less obesity," Andrea Giancoli, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, told MSNBC. "Maybe they're inclined to exercise more, be outdoors more, eat more fruits and vegetables. There could be all kinds of confounding factors that could make the results null and void."

Potheads might be more physically active? Seriously?

"I would be surprised that cannabis use is associated with a higher rate of physical activity, but this cannot be ruled out," Le Strat told Fox News. Another possibility, he said, is that certain compounds in cannabis might help people lose weight, and could serve as an area of future research.

Should folks trying to lose weight consider picking up a bong instead of a barbell?

"As an addiction psychiatrist, I see every day people struggling with cannabis dependence," Le Strat told Fox News. "I would not recommend smoking cannabis for any reason."

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