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Intermittent fasting is the health advice du jour. It is a popular way of trying to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight and feel better. There’s a fair amount of evidence that advocates it, and diets such as the 5/2 diet are very popular.
The theory goes that humans aren’t designed to be full of food all the time, for the hundreds of thousands of years before humans came to live in 20th and 21st-century households with immediate access to foods, our ancestors experienced regular periods of fasting.
As we, as a species, have spent most of our existence in states of intermittent fasting; and the sugar, fat and salt overload is a very tiny modern blip in the history of humanity, it makes sense that our bodies would be attuned to fasting, not eating sugary food whenever we want.
Certainly, the rising obesity epidemic shows us that we aren’t doing it right. The rise of diabetes, adult and childhood obesity, bad dental hygiene, and more, are modern diseases that are related largely to how we eat in our modern lives.
Intermittent fasting is associated with improved brain function, a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and improved cholesterol levels. Regardless of the evolutionary biologist’s justifications, it appears to be one of the few “diets” that actually have evidence for its efficacy.
One of the factors involved in intermittent fasting is insulin sensitivity. Low insulin sensitivity is “Associated with damage to blood vessels, high blood pressure, heart disease and heart failure, obesity, osteoporosis and even cancer”, according to Diabetes.co.uk.
A relatively large study has shown that regular marijuana users had a lower insulin resistance/higher insulin sensitivity than a control group. So the combination of intermittent fasting and medical cannabis use could be helpful to some, especially prediabetes.
This might sound like a ridiculous statement, surely everybody knows that cannabis gives you the munchies, right? Generally, this is true. Cannabis, specifically delta 9 – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is a known appetite increaser, resulting in many a late night quest to the 7/11 for bags of chips and as many tiny sugary edible things as possible. So why would anyone think that medical marijuana can help people with intermittent fasting?
According to Forbes, there is a chemical found in small quantities in cannabis called tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THCV for short. It is an appetite suppressor. A firm called Teewinot is currently trying to develop strains of cannabis that are high in THCV so people can use cannabis without wanting to eat everything in the house. For fasters, this would be a boon.
Strains high in THCV, Durban Poison for example, apparently have a more immediate psychoactive effect and aren’t so often accompanied by attacks of the “munchies” so well known to recreational cannabis users. This, the researchers think, is the result of the THCV.
Unfortunately, this product is not available on the market yet, so appetite suppressing cannabis is a pipe dream right now.
For the moment, intermittent fasting and cannabis don’t appear to be good bedfellows, unless you consider how you’re using cannabis with your fasts.
Intermittent fasting is fasting only some of the time and eating what you like for the rest of the time. This means that for the period you can consume what you want to (within reason). A spell of the munchies could be an extremely enjoyable way of utilizing your time properly. As a known appetite increaser and also as a flavor enhancer and way of appreciating food more (many users report that food is substantially more delicious under the influence of cannabis).
This is fairly tenuous, however, and not exactly advisable. It would hardly be justifiable, medically, to prescribe someone cannabis to make their 2 days of the 5/2 diet more enjoyable.
It is difficult to find reasons why medical cannabis would be beneficial to those practicing intermittent fasting, other than increasing their enjoyment of the food that they eat.
Cannabis is a drug that is comparatively safe. It has no known overdose limit (though you can certainly feel very uncomfortable if you imbibe too much, you won’t die), very few physical side effects (especially when eaten), and few lasting psychological effects if taken responsibly.
While there might be an appetite suppressor strain in the pipeline, and it might be nice to take some cannabis and pig-out on your day off from fasting, we cannot reasonably recommend that medical cannabis use and intermittent fasting are mutually beneficial.
Anybody considering taking on a diet like the 5/2 or any kind of intermittent fasting should do so in consultation with their doctor or GP. There are many medical conditions that can be worsened by fasting, and many that can be improved but your doctor will have the relevant information and can guide you appropriately.
The same is true for medical cannabis. While it is a relatively safe drug, it can have very severe side effects for some people and when misused it can be as dangerous as many other drugs. Always consult your physician before taking any drug and talk the risks through thoroughly before making a choice that could affect your health.
Overall, intermittent fasting is to be recommended, it has clear benefits and few drawbacks if any. There isn’t a clear link between successful intermittent fasting and medical cannabis use, so we cannot recommend that here, we can only advise caution.
Keep an eye out for the developments with THCV, the appetite suppressing qualities could be very beneficial for some people.