Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound gaining a lot of popularity in the natural health world. Some people believe that CBD can aid weight loss, but does it work?
CBD is one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Another cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. There is no evidence that CBD causes a high.
The only uses of CBD that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are for treating rare forms of epilepsy and specific causes of seizures. All other uses are off-label.
While research suggests that CBD may be a promising treatment for some health problems — including relieving chronic pain, improving sleep, and reducing inflammation — there is not enough evidence to prove that it is effective for any of these issues.
Researchers are also looking at the possibility that CBD can help people lose weight and reduce their risk of issues associated with overweight, such as diabetes and metabolic disorder.
In this article, we discuss the existing research behind CBD and weight loss. We also look at the possible risks and legal status of CBD.
CBD may aid weight loss due to how it affects the body and brain.
The effects of CBD in the body are largely due to how it affects the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. This system responds to different chemicals in the body through two cannabinoid (CB) receptors, called the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are most dense in the brain and central nervous system. CB2 receptors are mainly in the immune system.
In people with obesity, however, CB1 receptors become more widespread, especially in fatty tissue. Because of this, researchers believe that there may be a link between the activation of the CB1 receptors and obesity.
CBD works with other cannabinoids to potentially activate many receptors, such as endocannabinoid and serotonin. This may play a role in weight loss or other critical metabolic functions.
There is some evidence to suggest that CBD can help a person lose weight or help prevent metabolic disorders.
Many proponents say that CBD can help a person lose weight by reducing their appetite.
Most people associate cannabis with a stimulated appetite, as people tend to feel hungry after using cannabis. While THC may cause hunger, there is little evidence that CBD does the same.
THC, when it stimulates the CB1 receptor, releases a hormone that increases food intake. On the other hand, as the authors of one 2018 study note, CB1 receptor antagonists may help reduce appetite and control obesity. This is because CB1 receptor antagonists block off or “deactivate” the receptor.
The authors also note that stimulating the CB2 receptors decreases inflammation and reduces food intake, thereby possibly helping reduce obesity.
An older animal study from 2012 found that exposure to CBD reduced appetite in rats. No direct studies that show that it reduces appetite in humans.
Turns bad fat into good fat
Proponents of CBD for weight loss also claim that it can convert white, or “bad,” fat into brown fat, which may help the body burn calories.
White fat may increase the risk of many chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.
A 2016 study helps back up this claim. The researchers found that CBD plays multiple roles in how the body interacts with fat.
In the study, CBD helped convert white fat cells into brown fat cells. It also stimulated the body to break down fats more efficiently.
The researchers note that CBD may be a promising therapy for preventing obesity, but more studies in humans are necessary.
Research from 2018 helps explain how CBD might break down fats in the body. The process of turning white fat cells to brown fat cells actually changes how these cells act in the body.
Brown fat cells may be a more active form of fat. They burn off energy as heat, meaning that they actually burn calories.
As a loss of calories is important for weight loss, CBD may help burn fat if it turns white fat to brown fat in the body.
Reduces the risk of metabolic disorders
As other 2018 research notes, there is a close link between obesity and several metabolic disorders, such as:
Overactivation of the CB receptors in the body may be partly responsible for this. Overactivation of the CB1 receptors in the fat tissue throughout the body could contribute to obesity and metabolic risks.
A review in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research also notes some highlights of past studies surrounding CBD and metabolic factors in animals
For instance, a treatment using CBD reduced total cholesterol by 25% in rats with obesity. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of CBD also appeared to decrease blood sugar levels and increase markers for liver health.
While initial results from studies on CBD and weight loss raise some interesting potential connections, there are a few important things to consider.
CBD, or any other compound, supplement, or drug, is not a treatment for obesity. These supplements and compounds are not healthful replacements for a healthful diet and regular exercise.
A person who adds CBD to their weight loss plan without also exercising and eating healthfully may not see any benefits.
It is best to work directly with a doctor when using CBD for weight loss. Doctors will want to discuss any other medications the person is taking, as CBD may cause adverse interactions.
The FDA does not regulate CBD products in the same way they regulate drugs, so companies sometimes mislabel or misrepresent their products. That means it’s especially important to do some research and find a quality product.
The Farm Bill, signed into law in the United States in late 2018, states that hemp and hemp-derived products with a THC content of less than 0.3% are legal.
The legal status of CBD and other cannabinoids, however, varies by state. If a person in the U.S. is thinking of trying CBD, they can check their local laws here.
There is limited evidence from human studies to support CBD’s benefits, as the government continues to restrict the use of and research on cannabis. As cannabis is becoming legalized in various regions, research is increasing and shows some promising results.
The initial results of studies into CBD and weight loss are promising and may prompt more research into a possible connection.
However, it is important to note that no research has directly shown that CBD consistently leads to weight loss in humans.
CBD should not replace any other medications a person is taking for chronic conditions. People should talk to a doctor before using CBD for any reason, as it may interact with their existing medications.
Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Cannabis-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws. Check local legislation, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.