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Dietary study finds marijuana users have normal nutritional status, risky lifestyle habits

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Smoking marijuana and "the munchies" go together like ham and eggs in anecdotal popular culture. But how do marijuana users fare nutritionally in their everyday lives? Data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), analyzed by University at Buffalo researchers, paint a mixed nutritional picture. Their study, published in the June issue of Public Health Nutrition, found that:
  • Marijuana users consumed 24-40 percent more calories than non-users, but ate fewer fat calories and had a somewhat lower body mass index, a measure of obesity.
  • Users ate fewer fruits and vegetables and had lower levels of helpful antioxidant carotenoids in their blood stream, but levels of most vitamins and minerals were normal.
  • Users drank more soda and beer and ate more cheese and salty snacks than non-users.
  • Marijuana users smoked more cigarettes.

"We know little about the long-term effects of marijuana on the human body and other health behaviors associated with it," said Ellen Smit, Ph.D., assistant professor of social and preventive medicine in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and lead author on the study.

"It is important that we learn more about the changes in dietary habits that accompany marijuana use and their beneficial or detrimental effect on the development of chronic diseases."

The study examined diet and nutritional status of marijuana users and non-users between the ages of 20 and 59 based on NHANES III data collected between 1988 and 1994. Users were defined as having smoked or consumed marijuana in the past month. The survey involved a complete physical exam and medical history, blood chemistry assessment and questionnaires on foods eaten recently and regularly.

The need for information on the health consequences of using marijuana stemmed from public pressure for approval of the medical use of marijuana, and because ma
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Contact: Lois Baker
ljbaker@buffalo.edu
716-645-5000 x1417
University at Buffalo
11-Jun-2001


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