CBD and Obesity
I think we need to tread carefully here. The world is saturated with weight loss gimmicks, and there are goodness knows how many weight loss supplements out there, herbal or otherwise.
I’m not saying CBD necessarily falls into this category, but its still early days to be making any concrete statements.
What I’m going to walk you through is how CBD may lend itself to helping Obesity, and share some of the research so far.
Some cross sectional studies have found that people with obesity have significantly elevated levels of endocannabinods in their blood.
Blood levels of endocannabinoids are suggested to represent the ‘spillover’ of excessive endocannabinoids produced by metabolic tissues such as skeletal muscle, the liver and adipose tissue , to name a few.
We know these tissues are dysregulated in obesity, and that’s partly because of the excessive levels of endocannabinoids they express.
Basically, people with Obesity have hyperactive endocannabinoid systems. Whats still uncertain is whether the ECS is hyperactive as a result of obesity, or if its driving it. Although I would suggest its the later based on what I’ve read.
Anyway, let’s continue. The ECS uses cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) to regulate all sorts of metabolic processes (Horn et al., 2018). Activation of CB1:
- Reduces fatty acid oxidation
- Increases lipogenesis
- Reduces mitochondrial biogenesis
- Reduces TCA cycle activity
- Reduces Insulin sensitivity
- Increases Insulin secretion
- Increases appetite and food intake
- Increases sweet taste perception
- Reduces leptin sensitivity
So basically, most of the complications in Obesity can be partly attributed to ECS (mal)function.
The high level of endocannabinoids mean that the CB1 receptor is overstimulated and chronically activated, leading to a energy conserving, lipogenic phenotype.
Where CBD has been suggested to play a role is in the modulation of the CB1 receptor, and its sensitivity to activation by endocannabinoids. CBD has been found to block the CB1 receptor in the presence of CB1 agonists, like the endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol. (Remember: CBD has an adaptogenic effect on the ECS)
Its suggested to work as an antagonist at CB1, but the consensus is that it acts as a negative allosteric modifier, to dampen signalling elicited by an agonist.
What you’d expect to see from this effect is a reduction in appetite, fat mass, blood sugar and insulin levels, in addition to blood lipids. However, the only trial to look at these outcomes found no effect of CBD on these parameters, although it did reduce the levels of resistin, a hormone that raises LDL cholesterol (Jadoon et al., 2016).
The important thing to bear in mind here, though is that:
- The trial used a very low dose (for research) of 200mg / day.
- It was pure CBD (isolate), and any effect from entourage cannabinoids would have been missed.
CBD is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, so you’d expect that to negate the negative impact of inflammation and oxidative stress on insulin signalling.
Side effects reported from using CBD were associated with reduced appetite (Thiele et al., 2018), (Devinsky et al., 2016). CBD has also been found to reduce appetite and food intake in rats (Farrimond et al., 2012).
Epidemiological studies hint at a similar effect when looking at the paradoxical effects of cannabis on body weight.
Data was used rom the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. Researchers looked at the Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 33,000 participants, ages 18 and older(Alshaarawy and Anthony 2019).
Lead author of the study, Omayma Alshaarawy comments that “Over a three-year period, all participants showed a weight increase, but interestingly, those who used marijuana had less of an increase compared to those that never used.” (Sciencedaily.com)
“We found that users, even those who just started, were more likely to be at a normal, healthier weight and stay at that weight. Only 15% of persistent users were considered obese compared to 20% of non-users.”
The weight difference between users and non-users was modest, at around 2 lbs. Alshaarawy clarifies “An average 2-pound difference doesn’t seem like much, but we found it in more than 30,000 people with all different kinds of behaviours and still got this result,”
Although cannabis is more than just CBD, its plausible that CBD is contributing in some way. It seems as though cannabis, whilst not wholly promoting weight loss, may inhibit the gaining of weight.
What will be interesting to study is the effect of a CBD rich whole plant extract low in THC, much like our Broad Spectrum Hemp oral drops, on body weight and composition.
Alshaarawy, O. and Anthony, J. C. (2019) ‘Are cannabis users less likely to gain weight? Results from a national 3-year prospective study’, International Journal of Epidemiology. Oxford University Press (OUP). doi: 10.1093/ije/dyz044.
Devinsky, O. et al. (2016) ‘Cannabidiol in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy: an open-label interventional trial’, The Lancet Neurology. Lancet Publishing Group, 15(3), pp. 270–278. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(15)00379-8.
Farrimond, J. A., Whalley, B. J. and Williams, C. M. (2012) ‘Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns’, Psychopharmacology, 223(1), pp. 117–129. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2697-x.
Horn, H. et al. (2018) ‘Endocannabinoids in body weight control’, Pharmaceuticals. MDPI AG. doi: 10.3390/ph11020055.
Ignatowska-Jankowska, B., Jankowski, M. M. and Swiergiel, A. H. (2011) ‘Cannabidiol decreases body weight gain in rats: Involvement of CB2 receptors’, Neuroscience Letters, 490(1), pp. 82–84. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2010.12.031.
Jadoon, K. A. et al. (2016) ‘Efficacy and safety of cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabivarin on glycemic and lipid parameters in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group pilot study’, Diabetes Care. American Diabetes Association Inc., 39(10), pp. 1777–1786. doi: 10.2337/dc16-0650.
Thiele, E. A. et al. (2018) ‘Cannabidiol in patients with seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (GWPCARE4): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial’, The Lancet. Lancet Publishing Group, 391(10125), pp. 1085–1096. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30136-3.