By Jon Johnson Reviewed by Alan Carter, PharmD
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a natural compound gaining a lot of popularity in the natural health world. CBD is one of the compounds called cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Some people believe that CBD can aid weight loss, but does it work?
There are many possible uses for CBD, from fighting acne to reducing anxiety. Researchers are also looking at the possibility that CBD can help people lose weight and reduce their risk of experiencing issues associated with weight, such as diabetes and metabolic disorder.
In this article, we discuss CBD for weight loss, including whether or not science backs up the hype.
CBD and weight loss
There is some evidence to suggest that taking CBD may help a person lose weight.
CBD may aid weight loss due to how it works in the body.
The body has a built-in endocannabinoid system. This system responds to different compounds in the body through two cannabinoid (CB) receptors, called the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Usually, CB1 receptors exist mainly in the brain and central nervous system and are almost nonexistent in the rest of the body. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, exist throughout the body.
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 does not activate the CB receptors directly, instead influencing the body’s natural cannabinoids to either block off or activate the receptors. 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.
Claims and research
Some people claim that CBD:
Many proponents say that the compound can help a person lose weight by reducing their appetite.
Most people associate cannabis with a stimulated appetite, as people who smoke cannabis tend to feel more hungry than usual. While it is true that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis, may cause hunger, CBD does not.
THC activates the CB1 receptors in the body, causing many effects, including stimulating the appetite. However, as the authors of one 2018 study paper note, CB1 receptor antagonists may help reduce appetite and control obesity. This is because CB1 receptor agonists block off or “deactivate” the receptor.
CBD does not deactivate CB1 receptors but may influence other molecules to block them off. Shutting off these receptors may help reduce the appetite and prevent overeating in some people.
An older animal study from 2012 found that exposure to CBD reduced appetite in rats. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that CBD is helpful for appetite suppression, there have been no direct studies that show CBD 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 also 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.
Not only did CBD help 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.
Another claim is that CBD melts away fat in the body by breaking down the fat and helping eliminate it from the body as waste.
Research from 2018 helps explain this phenomenon. 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 vital 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
The 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.
CBD helps block off the CB1 receptors, meaning that it might reduce the risk of obesity.
A review in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research also notes some highlights of past studies surrounding CBD and metabolic factors, mainly in animal models.
For instance, a treatment using CBD reduced total cholesterol by 25 percent in obese rats. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of CBD also appeared to decrease blood sugar levels and increase markers for liver health.