Scientific Studies on CBD and Weight Loss

You’ve probably seen and heard a lot of hype about CBD lately. As people frequently think CBD is synonymous with Cannabis, you might be wondering why it’s hailed as a new weight loss aid.

Surely, cannabis has the opposite effect, right? Technically, yes, but it is important to delve into the science behind cannabis and CBD to understand the difference between consuming CBD supplements and smoking marijuana.

What does CBD do?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, which belongs to a larger family of compounds called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are natural compounds that are produced in our body and play a major role in our endocannabinoid system (ES). These are believed by researchers to be involved in regulating your appetite, metabolism and play a crucial role in reducing inflammation in the body.

In the cannabis plant, CBD exists in a mix of active ingredients including THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the main ingredient in marijuana.

THC is a potent psychoactive ingredient, which means it is responsible for the ‘munchies’ and the high you experience when smoking cannabis.

So, because THC overshadows CBD in cannabis, smoking it will spike your appetite and encourage you to overconsume food. As a result, you’re likely to put on weight.

CBD and Weight Loss

Extensive research has been going on since the 1990s to see if CBD behaves differently when isolated than when it is in the cannabis plant.

Numerous research studies do in fact show that CBD behaves completely differently when consumed on its own. It actually produces the OPPOSITE effects to the harmful THC.

There is plenty of scientific evidence to show that CBD can help with weight loss efforts. There are numerous ways it is believed to do this:

  1. CBD increases fat metabolism

There are two types of fat found in the human body, white fat (White Adipose Tissue) and brown fat (Brown Adipose Tissue).

White Adipose Tissue (WAT) cells have single drop of lipid with minimal quantities of mitochondria and blood vessels, giving it a lighter appearance. WAT is the most common type of fat found in the body.

It is meant to be stored to provide insulation and act as a shock absorber for your organs.  However, this is also the type of fat that we want to get rid of the most, as it sits in our thighs, abdomen and hips.

More white fat is produced when you consistently overconsume food and burn fewer calories. The proportion of white fat cells increase as we age or lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT) cells on the other hand, have plenty of blood vessels and mitochondria which gives it a darker appearance.

BAT is the most metabolically active type of fat. It is not meant to be stored, but rather, kept ready to break down as a source of energy and also to keep our bodies warm by breaking down calories. Unlike WAT which is found in areas like the abdomen, BAT is mostly found in the neck and upper back.

Brown Adipose Tissue can be increased by staying physically active, getting adequate sleep and exposing yourself to lower temperatures (since BAT would be needed to generate heat). The proportion of BAT decreases as we get older and become sedentary.

There is also a correlation between BAT and WAT levels. The proportion of WAT is higher in overweight people while BAT is higher in physically active people. There is evidence to show that when you regularly overconsume calories, you don’t just increase WAT, you also make your existing Brown Adipose Tissue less active.

So, in order to burn more fat, you would need to convert your existing white fat into the more metabolically active brown fat. This is where CBD helps. Research studies have shown that CBD helps to ‘brown’ fat cells, in other words, convert white fat into brown fat.

A study done in 2016 by Parray et al, concluded that CBD aids in the browning of white adipocytes (white fat cells) and encourages fat metabolism. So, CBD effectively, discourages your body from storing fat (white fat) and encourages it to burn it instead (brown fat).

  1. Correlated with Lower Weight

Even though there’s a popular idea that marijuana use can encourage you to overconsume calories and put on weight, some studies show otherwise.

A survey which looked at around 50,000 subjects found that the obesity rate among marijuana users (consumed more than 3 times a week) was 14-17% which was lower than the obesity rate among non-marijuana users that was found to be 22-25%.

Other studies found that frequent marijuana users tend to have a lower BMIs than non-marijuana users.

  1. CBD can improve metabolism and curb appetite

Another important way that CBD promotes weight loss is by boosting your metabolism and discouraging you from consuming too many calories. A study done on rats in 2012 showed that CBD reduced appetite among rats that were given CBD.

While it is not entirely clear how CBD can curb appetite, it is thought that CBD influences cannabinoid receptors found in the body known as CB1 and CB2. Cannabinoid receptors play a crucial role in overseeing thermogenesis, food consumption and inflammation. CB1 receptors are mostly found in the brain and the nervous system. So, they can influence mood and appetite. Stimulation of CB2 receptors are commonly found in the immune system and help in reducing inflammation.

THC seems to activate the CB1 receptors in the body, increasing your appetite and encouraging overconsumption. According to this 2018 study, while CBD does not interact with CB1 receptors directly, it can encourage other cannabinoids in the body to block them off. Hence, it curbs your appetite.

  1. CBD can reduce Cortisol levels

Another indirect way CBD can promote weight loss is by lowering the levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol. Our modern, hectic lifestyles mean that we experienced prolonged levels of stress and hence cortisol levels are always high. Cortisol not only discourages the body from breaking down calories but also increases inflammation.

This 1993 study found that CBD reduced cortisol levels in human, lowering effects of anxiety and stress, and improving sleep quality.