CBD for weight loss- does it really work?

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CBD has enjoyed a surge of popularity over recent years, and for good reason: it has been shown to help with several conditions including chronic pain and anxiety. As CBD continues to garner attention for its numerous health and wellness benefits, there is more interest than ever about potential benefits that can be derived from this natural compound that have yet to be discovered. One area in which research on CBD has begun is examining its impact on weight loss. There is some indication that CBD can assist in the body’s weight loss process; however, this has yet to be established conclusively, so CBD cannot currently be labeled as a weight loss tool. Indeed, much of the research on this matter remains in the infancy stage. As such, many of the claims remain unsubstantiated. Below you will find what we know so far.

What factors contribute to weight gain?

The most commonly cited and well-known reason for weight gain is when the body is intaking more calories than it is burning. This is typically due to a lack of exercise, which burns calories, and is usually coupled with unhealthy or immoderate eating habits. However, excessive food intake and lack of physical exercise are not the only factors that contribute to weight gain. Each individual’s ability to burn fat is different and can depend on a variety of factors. Some of these factors can negatively impact the body’s fat burning capacity including a compromised metabolism caused by hormonal imbalances, a thyroid disorder, the status of inflammation, and the health and effectiveness of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). 

CBD for weight loss exercise

How can CBD help mitigate them?

In order for your body to return to a sound and balanced weight, it must achieve homeostasis. This is attained only when your other bodily functions including your immune system, your nervous system, and your digestive system are working effectively and in unison. This balance is the work of the ECS, which strives to regulate these various processes and ensure they are operating in harmony with one another. CBD can help to improve the functionality of the ECS because CBD is a phytocannabinoid, which can supplement endocannabinoids that the body naturally produces. The more endocannabinoids that the body possesses, the more receptors the endocannabinoids can bind to in order to trigger necessary bodily functions. As mentioned previously, this can include digestive and immune-related processes, which are relevant to weight gain and loss. 

The ECS responds to chemicals in the body through two receptors, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are most dense in the brain, whereas CB2 receptors are mainly found in the immune system. However, in those with obesity, the CB1 receptors become more prevalent, particularly in fatty tissues. For this reason, researchers believe that there may be a connection between CB1 receptors and obesity. Furthermore, CBD may play a role in appetite suppression. According to a study published in 2018, CB1 receptor antagonists can help reduce appetite and control obesity. This is due to the fact that CB1 receptor antagonists reactivate the receptor. Additionally, a study from 2012 found that when rats are exposed to CBD, it reduces their food intake. As of now, there have not been any published trials that have shown CBD to be an appetite suppressant in humans.

In addition to its impact on CB1 receptors, there are claims that CBD use can result in “fat browning.” This is when the white fat tissue is converted into useful brown fat cells. The brown fat cells support weight loss by burning excess calories in your body through a process called thermogenesis. A study from 2016 supports this claim since researchers found that CBD helped convert fat cells. In fact, it also stimulated the body so as to break down the fat more efficiently. Finally, a review that was published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research found that a treatment containing CBD helped reduce cholesterol by 25% in rats with obesity. In fact, the study also found that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of CBD helped decrease blood sugar levels and assist in overall liver health. 

What should one look for when trying CBD for weight loss?

The Cannabis plant is most well-known for increasing appetite, so ingesting a compound that is derived from the plant may seem counterintuitive. However, it is important to remember that CBD that is derived specifically from hemp has a negligible THC content—less than 0.3%. This means that it will not induce what is known as “munchies”, nor will you be exposed to the psychoactive component that is present in THC. 

For higher potency, it is recommended that you ingest CBD oil sublingually. In this way, the CBD oil is absorbed through the glands under your tongue, increasing how quickly you feel the effects of the CBD oil. It also enters your bloodstream without passing through your GI tract, which prevents it from being broken down by enzymes before it has the chance to take effect.

 

There are certain qualities that you should seek when purchasing any CBD product, whether the intended use is for weight loss or not. The CBD oil should be tested by a third party and labeled full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate. It is also wise to scan the label for other ingredients. You will typically find hemp oil, MCT oil or coconut oil, and other ingredients for added flavour.

Does CBD really help with weight loss?

Though marijuana is known to induce hunger and increase appetite, studies show that those who use marijuana products tend to weigh less than those who don’t. For instance, one review analyzed 50,000 participants and noted that the obesity rate among those who use cannabis at least three times a week over the past 12 months was between 14-17%. On the other hand, those who reported no cannabis use over the same period were found to have an obesity rate between 22-25%.

However, there is contradictory research when it comes to CBD for weight loss. For instance, a study published in 2019 found that any type of cannabis user (including consistent users, new users, and those who have previously used but quit) is more likely to see an increase in their BMI over a 3-year period in comparison to people who have never used cannabis. The research was significant in that it followed study participants over a long period of time, while most studies look at cannabis users over shorter periods. 

In another study, CBD was shown to increase appetite. Researchers interviewed 117 parents of children who were given CBD as a treatment for symptoms of epilepsy. Though the parents reported a decrease in the symptoms of epilepsy, 30% found that the CBD oil also increased their children’s appetite. Conversely, a 2017 study monitored 23 children with a type of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome consuming up to 11.4 mg of CBD per pound of body weight. Some children experienced increased appetites, while others found that it suppressed their appetite. 

Young woman drinking CBD for weight loss

One additional point on the potential benefits CBD can have on weight loss is its effect on stress and anxiety. It is commonly known that emotional eating (stress eating) is a pattern of eating where people use food to help them deal with stressful situations. Due to certain properties of CBD that we have previously discussed, stress and anxiety are afflictions that can be successfully reduced by using CBD as such, there may be an indirect weight loss benefit that CBD can offer by reducing anxiety and stress eating. 

Clearly, more research must be conducted in order to make conclusive statements about the efficacy of CBD as a weight loss aid. 

Risks/side effects when taking CBD for weight loss

Since CBD is a natural compound that is found in the body, there is little associated risk with consuming it. However, it is important to note that CBD is not a solution for obesity; like other supplements, it is meant to complement a healthy diet and regular exercise rather than replace them. Adding CBD to a weight loss plan without exercise and a balanced diet may not have any health benefits. The best practice is to speak to your doctor and/or nutritionist about how to incorporate CBD into a healthy lifestyle.

Is there a different compound or cannabinoid that would be better suited for weight loss?

There are specific strains, cannabinoids, and terpene profiles that can assist in reducing appetite. For instance, strains that contain THC-V (tetrahydrocannabivarin) deliver an energetic and euphoric high and have appetite-suppressing qualities. One commonality of strains that reduce appetite is a high content of the terpene humulene. Strains that are high in humulene have similar appetite-suppressing qualities as THC-V. Either humulene or THC-V (or both) are best for reducing appetite and an inclination to reach into the fridge. However, the THC content may be a drawback for some because, unlike CBD, cannabinoids found in strains containing THC-V contain a psychoactive component. 

If you are reluctant to experiment with THC, then you may want to try CBG. CBG is also derived from hemp and therefore has a very low THC content. CBG, which is known as “the mother of all cannabinoids” because it is the precursor to all other cannabinoids, has been shown in preliminary trials to have appetite suppressing qualities. 

Conclusion

As is obvious, more research is required before we are sure about the effects of CBD on weight loss. So far, there is evidence to support various claims. However, since CBD that is from a trusted manufacturer, in moderation, does not possess side effects, it is safe to try if you are curious. If you are considering trying CBD, it is recommended that you start with a smaller dose. But remember, CBD should not replace regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Written by Rahaf Sheikh-Khalil & Mike Robertson

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