Many experts and scientists have started taking a serious look at the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, as a tool for weight loss, and the results thus far have been promising.
The weight loss product industry in the United States was valued at over $70 billion and worldwide was worth over $210 billion in 2018 and it’s expected to grow to between $350 and $440 billion worldwide by 2025.
Weight loss products can vary from devices that people wear such as a fit bit or a “tummy trimmer” cummerbund-like neoprene waistband to meal plans, weight loss programs, or even surgery.
Obesity is at an all-time high, not just in the United States, but around the world. People try to look for a single reason for this, but in reality, a number of situations have caused this epidemic. They include:
- Chemicals in foods that were unknown to human genetics 50 years ago (that human genes haven’t adapted to)
- Lack of physical education in schools
- The move of society from a rural, physical labor based society to a sedentary suburb/urban society with desk jobs
- The prevalence of pre-prepared and fast food in our diets
- The stress caused by modern life
Cannabis, CBD, and the Endocannabinoid System
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a derivative of cannabis called a cannabinoid. At this time there are 113 known cannabinoids that exist. In addition to cannabinoids comprising the cannabis plant, they’re also found to be naturally produced in most vertebrates, specifically humans.
When the word cannabis is used, most people associate it with marijuana. In in the case of weight loss, many people who are familiar with marijuana have heard that it creates an appetite in the form of “the munchies”. And while all this is true, the cannabis used for marijuana and the cannabis used for CBD in most cases are different.
To elucidate further, there are 3 species of cannabis. They are Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis. The chart below shows some of the differences:
|Cannabis Sativa||Cannabis Indica||Cannabis Ruderalis|
|Commonly Known As||Hemp||Marijuana||Russian Hemp|
|THC Content||Less than 0.3%||Up to 35%||Less than 0.1%|
|CBD Content||15% to 20%||5% to 10%||Up to 25%|
|Average Plant Height||Up to 20 feet||3 to 6 feet||2 feet|
|Area of Origin||Eastern Asia||India||Russia, Mongolia|
|Uses||Medicine, Food, Clothing, Rope, Construction Materials, Plastics, Bio Fuel||Medicine, Recreational use, Hashish||Medical, Crossbreeding plant for both Sativa and Indica|
As noted by the chart, both Sativa and Ruderalis are both used for hemp. Sativa is far more versatile as the plant can grow up to 20 feet high. This allows for far more applications that the plant can be used for including construction materials (such as the hemp-based concrete called Hempcrete), rope, clothing, paper, food, and medicine.
Ruderalis can be used for all of this as well but is mostly used as either a medicine, food or to crossbreed with Sativa or Indica as the plant has a feature that most growers want to incorporate into their strains of plants which causes the plant to “auto-flower”, allowing for rapid cultivation.
Both Sativa and Ruderalis have high CBD content and, for the most part, low THC content. In the United States, THC content in hemp must be kept below 0.3% for commercial use.
Indica also contains CBD but also is a high source of THC. CBD for Indica is available for purchase in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use and is available by prescription in most states that have medical marijuana laws, but it is illegal under federal law, so users risk federal prosecution.
All cannabinoids work with the body’s endocannabinoid system or ECS. The ECS is involved in regulating and modulating cognitive and physiological functions such as
- Pain sensation
- Processing the absorption of cannabinoids
The ECS is made up of a system of neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors, and cannabinoid receptor proteins that are located in the brain, the central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system.
It’s important to know that the endocannabinoid system is extremely complex. Researchers have been studying it for 25 years and are finding new functions and parts to it every year. But as a basic overview, the ECS is made of 3 parts:
- The endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These are lipids and are physiological ligands (molecules which produce a signal by binding to a target protein) for cannabinoid receptors
- The enzymes that make and control the endocannabinoids
- The cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) that couple with guanine nucleotide-binding proteins (G-proteins) located throughout the brain, central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system
The 2 main cannabinoid receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The CB1 receptors have a direct effect on anxiety, cardiovascular activity, gastrointestinal activity, motor control, as well as drug and behavioral addictions. The CB2 are found in the brain, gastrointestinal system, immune system, and peripheral nervous system.
CB1 receptors interact with CBD works as an antagonist. This means that CBD activates it to it but doesn’t bind to the receptor. This allows CBD to regulate the neurotransmitters to keep them from being quickly absorbed. This allows the neurotransmitter to build to proper levels to allow for regular activity within the ECS.
CB2 receptors actually bind with CBD as CBD acts as an agonist. By binding to the CB2 receptors, CBD allows neurotransmitters to pass through without any restrictions.
CB1 receptors can be found in:
- Adrenal glands
- Digestive tract
- Pituitary gland
The CB2 are found in:
- Gastrointestinal system
- Immune system
- Peripheral nervous system
The CB1 receptors have a direct effect on
- Cardiovascular activity
- Gastrointestinal activity
- Motor control
- Drug and behavioral addictions
The CB2 receptors are responsible for:
- Bone health
- Cancer inhibition
- Gastrointestinal processes
- Kidney function
- Pain responses (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2219532/)
CBD had been found to have the following protective properties in the body:
- Anti-anxiogenic (anxiety)
Since the discovery of the ECS in the early 1990s, it has been found that when introduced to CBD, it acts as a neuromodulator that regulates the following functions:
- Motor learning
- Pain sensation
CBD for Weight Loss
From the information already provided, it shows that the ECS can regulate gastrointestinal processes and studies have shown that the introduction of CBD can help regulate appetite.
One study from 2012 examined the effects of CBD on the feeding habits of laboratory rats and found some interesting results. The researchers found ”cannabinol induced a CB(1)R-mediated increase in appetitive behaviors via significant reductions in the latency to feed and increases in consummatory behaviors via increases in meal 1 size and duration. Cannabinol also significantly increased the intake during hour 1 and total chow consumed during the test. Conversely, cannabidiol significantly reduced total chow consumption over the test period. Cannabigerol [CBG- another cannabinoid] administration induced no changes to feeding behavior. This is the first time cannabinol has been shown to increase feeding. Therefore, cannabinol could, in the future, provide an alternative to the currently used and psychotropic ∆(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol-based medicines since cannabinol is currently considered to be non-psychotropic. Furthermore, cannabidiol reduced food intake in line with some existing reports, supporting the need for further mechanistic and behavioral work examining possible anti-obesity effects of cannabidiol.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22543671/)
A study in 2018 looked at cannabinoids as a way to help with the obesity epidemic. In the study, scientists noted that fat cells were turned from white to beige (a transition color) to brown. Brown fat cells are the cells that are turned into energy when burned. The study stated “The conversion of white in beige adipose tissue is a potential new therapeutic target for obesity. Cannabinoid receptors (CB) regulate thermogenesis, food intake, and inflammation. CB1 ablation or inhibition helps reducing body weight and food intake. Stimulation of CB2 limits inflammation and promotes anti-obesity effects by reducing food intake and weight gain. Its genetic ablation results in adiposity development. CB receptors are also responsible for transforming white adipose tissue towards beige or brown adipocytes, therefore their modulation can be considered potential anti-obesity target. CB1 principal localization in the central nervous system represents an important limit. Stimulation of CB2, principally localized on peripheral cells instead, should facilitate the anti-obesity effects without exerting remarkable psychotropic activity.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6163475/)
Another study from 2017 talks about restricting or blocking the CB1 receptors as a way to treat obesity. Since CBD is a CB1 antagonist, this study directly relates to CBD as a treatment for obesity. The study states “focus has shifted to peripherally restricted cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor blockers as possible therapeutic agents that mitigate or eliminate the untoward effects in the central nervous system. Targeting the endocannabinoid system using novel peripheral CB1 receptor blockers with negligible penetrance across the blood-brain barrier may prove to be an effective therapy for obesity and its co-morbidities. Perhaps the future of blockers targeting CB1 receptors will be tissue-specific neutral antagonists (e.g., skeletal muscle-specific to treat peripheral insulin resistance, adipocyte-specific to treat fat excess, liver-specific to treat fatty liver and hepatic insulin resistance).” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28913816)
A 2016 study looked at how CBD can help turn white fat cells into brown so the body can turn them into energy. The study found that “CBD enhanced expression of a core set of brown fat-specific marker genes and proteins increased expression of UCP1 and other brown fat-specific markers contributed to the browning of 3T3-L1 adipocytes possibly via activation of PPARγ and PI3K. In addition, CBD increased protein expression levels of CPT1, ACSL, SIRT1, and PLIN while down-regulating JNK2, SREBP1, and LPL. These data suggest possible roles for CBD in browning of white adipocytes, augmentation of lipolysis, thermogenesis, and reduction of lipogenesis. In conclusion, the current data suggest that CBD plays dual modulatory roles in the form of inducing the brown-like phenotype as well as promoting lipid metabolism. Thus, CBD may be explored as a potentially promising therapeutic agent for the prevention of obesity.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27067870)
CBD Is Part of the Solution
For anyone that’s suffered from obesity or morbid obesity, they know that there’s no magic pill that will do the trick to make them lose the weight. And in all honesty, CBD isn’t a magic cure for obesity either. It can be effective as a suppressant, but that’s only the first step.
Using CBD to lose weight should be part of a holistic health plan that includes diet, exercise, meditation, proper nutrition via supplements, and counseling.
Many people that find successful weight loss outside of surgery utilize all of these tools. Many will add additional tools. Some will hire nutritionists or even hypnotists to help quell the anxieties that cause them to overeat.
Many nutritionists realize the value of CBD as an appetite suppressant and can help with creating a diet and supplement program that works in concert with CBD.
As overeating and binge eating can be related to emotional issues, a cognitive behavior therapist or another type of counselor can work with a person to work through issues that make a person feel the need to overeat.
However, before starting any weight loss plan, it’s important to get examined by a doctor. The issues that some obese patients experience may actually be physical. It could be issues with the endocrine system, thyroid, or some other physical imbalance. While CBD may be able to help with these issues, it’s important to know up front if the cause of the excess weight is a physical and/or mechanical problem within the body.
Studies of CBD and weight loss are in their infancy, but the outlook is hopeful. The explosion of CBD on the consumer market is prompting many researchers to jump in and run tests on it, and weight loss being such a lucrative industry, is no exception.
When considering CBD for weight loss, or any reason, a person should consult with their doctor as they can help navigate any pitfalls such as dosage and interactions with existing medications. They can also monitor any improved health to adjust or eliminate any other medications (and the person should not stop taking prescriptions in lieu of CBD unless instructed to do so by a doctor).
Anyone that is considering purchasing CBD for weight loss should do so from a reputable distributor and ask for a report of their latest independent analysis of their CBD products to ensure quality. All reputable distributors will be able to provide a recent report upon request.