What Does The Research Say: CBD For Weight Loss
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CBD oil is all the rage these days. With people swearing by its ability to help with anxiety, pain, and a myriad of other issues, it's no wonder cannabidiol has become one of the most popular supplements on the market.
But what about CBD's effect on weight loss?
The diet supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar industry—and whenever entrepreneurs can get their hands on a new supplement with any potential benefit towards fat loss, it hits the market by storm—whether or not it's truly effective outside of very strict clinical settings.
Does the research support using CBD for weight loss? Here's what we found.
- CBD support's the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS) in maintaining homeostasis in the body, so it may have some potential for supporting weight loss indirectly by regulating stress, sleep, mood, and energy metabolism as all these systems are moderated by the ECS.
- Unlike THC, CBD does not give you "the munchies" and has been observed to have the opposite effect, which may help some people curb junk cravings.
- The long-lasting solution to successful weight loss will depend on the factors that caused the weight gain in the first place. If you've experienced drastic unintentional weight gain, it's best you consult with your doctor.
- The research surrounding CBD oil for weight loss is scarce and very much in the early stages of the investigation. However, there are many anecdotal reports of CBD users successfully managing their weight with lifestyle changes and good quality CBD products.
First Off, What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the primary active compound in the hemp plant. It's present in both hemp and marijuana plants, but unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—which is most abundant in marijuana—CBD doesn't produce intoxicating effects.
CBD has been studied for its potential benefits for supporting a healthy immune response, stress levels, metabolism, mood, and much more. It works by targeting a system that manages homeostasis (balance) of some of our major bodily functions, called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
CBD is extracted from the resin on hemp flowers, but this pure extract is very difficult to use on its own, so manufacturers will dilute the CBD extract with a carrier oil such as hemp seed oil, coconut oil, or olive oil to make it easier to use. CBD oil, sometimes called CBD tincture comes in a dropper bottle, labeled with a set amount of CBD content indicated in MG that's meant to be used internally.
What Causes Unintentional Weight Gain?
Our body's ability to store fat was an evolutionary design that helped us adapt to very harsh environments. It allowed us to store long-term excess of energy in fat depots, which would give us energy in times of scarcity. The immune system could use this stored energy to overcome diseases, infections, and help heal injuries .
In our modern lives, we have access to an abundance of foods at our local grocery stores, fast-food shops, and can even have meals delivered to our doorsteps with mobile apps. It's safe to say that for most people, food is sufficiently available, and this ability to store fat now ends up working against us if we're not eating the right foods or exercising enough. This leads to a higher risk of developing conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
There are other circumstances that can lead to unintentional weight gain, which may include:
- Medication side-effects
- Hormonal changes (menstruation and menopause)
- Hormonal dysfunction (hypothyroidism)
It's recommended you consult with your doctor if you've experienced unintentional weight gain. They may ask you questions about your medications, lifestyle, and family medical history to better understand the cause of your weight and may help you find safe ways to start and maintain a healthy weight loss journey.
The Endocannabinoid System & Maintaining A Healthy Weight
Healthy weight management is critical to one's health and longevity.
We briefly mentioned that the endocannabinoid system is a cell-regulating system that helps to maintain the balance of some of our most important functions. While researchers are still trying to uncover the ECS' capabilities, some studies suggest that it may play a role in body weight control.
Endocannabinoids are lipid messengers in the ECS that are observed to interact with central and peripheral regulatory circuits that manage energy homeostasis and may influence our body weight gain and loss through interactions at the CB1 receptor .
Researchers found that bodyweight control is shaped early on in a mammal's life through breast milk. It turns out breastmilk—including humans—contains anandamide (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) primary cell-signaling endocannabinoids that interact with the CB1 receptor.
One study found that when mouse pups were administered AEA while nursing, they an increased fat, insulin residence, and higher body weight as adults. On the other hand, pups that were CB1 deficient had a reduced lifespan .
The researchers underscored that there are of course many other factors that contribute to fat gain and loss in the test subjects, but it does seem to show that the endocannabinoid system does play a role in maintaining weight.
Evidence Of CBD For Weight Loss
With the stigma surrounding the cannabis plant slowly subsiding and as more research about potential health benefits emerges, many people are turning to CBD products as a way to manage stress, relieve pain, and support a healthy immune system.
Does CBD help with weight loss?
Some health and wellness industry experts are even recommending CBD oil to aid weight loss.
The scientific literature around CBD's role in losing weight is quite limited—but we can expect more studies underway. So far, it doesn't appear that CBD oils or products will directly burn calories and fat—but it may help with other vital systems in the body to create a more favorable metabolic modulation.
In short—CBD may help you lose weight indirectly through supporting healthy stress levels, managing pain, and improving sleep—all of which if unmanaged, can lead to unintentional weight gain.
Let's dig into these a little deeper.
CBD May Support Healthy Stress Levels
It's no secret that obesity and stress are linked.
But did you know that there's a strong correlation between chronic stress and obesity? According to one study, "Stress may increase the likelihood of becoming obese or overweight through its effects on eating behaviors, including increased intake of comfort foods" .
There are several studies that point to CBD oils' potential for supporting stress and anxiety.
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to exhibit a broad pharmacological profile. Some of the interactions observed that may directly affect stress, fear, and anxiety-related behavior, and mood are interactions are the CB1 receptors, the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, and the vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) receptor .
CBD May Support Pain & Discomfort
There's evidence to strongly support a correlation between chronic pain conditions and obesity.
Studies observed that people in pain are much more likely to be obese than those who don't suffer from chronic pain.
So what's behind this correlation?
The researchers aren't exactly sure, but they have some theories. One possibility is that people in pain tend to overeat or eat unhealthy foods in order to cope with their discomfort. Another theory is that obesity can actually cause pain due to the extra strain it puts on your body, which can become a vicious cycle.
CBD has been shown to have properties in regulating inflammatory cytokines that are believed to be involved in many chronic pain conditions. While there aren't any FDA-approved nonprescription CBD products designed for pain relief, there's a substantial number of anecdotal reports of CBD's benefits in this regard.
Since CBD may help to minimize the discomfort from chronic pain, it may help people get to become more active and make healthier choices.
CBD May Support Sleep
One of the observed negative effects of long-term insomnia is weight gain. It makes sense when you think about it- deprive yourself of sleep for long enough, and your body will start storing more fat as a way to try to preserve energy.
Unlike prescription sleeping pills, CBD doesn't shut down the central nervous system to knock you out. This is one way to get you to fall asleep, but it's not practical long-term and can come with a long list of adverse effects.
Instead, clinical data has shown that CBD may help with sleep by calming out nervousness and anxious thoughts that may be keeping you up at night. One short-term study conducted on 72 participants found that their mood and sleep quality improved from taking CBD oil after one month of the three-month trial .
CBD May Support Mitochondrial Function
The mitochondria are often called the powerhouse of the cell. It's responsible for converting food into energy that the cells can use.
Poor mitochondrial function has been linked to weight gain and insulin resistance. This is essentially when the body struggles to convert the nutrients we consume into the energy we need, which makes it hard to lose weight.
The endocannabinoid system plays a role in systemic energy homeostasis to coordinate glucose and burn fat for energy. When the mitochondria become lazy, the endocannabinoid system has been observed to step up to support the mitochondria to boost metabolism .
Animal studies show a lot of promise towards CBD and metabolic disorders through supporting mitochondrial channels .
Another possible area on CBD's effect on metabolic function and fat burn is a process called "fat browning." It might be helpful to think of the fat in the body is made up of different types of fat tissue—white and brown fat cells. Brown fat or brown adipose tissue (BAT) is considered "good fat." It's what babies are born with, and what helps us to regulate body temperature in cooler conditions.
White adipose tissue (WAT) on the other hand, is the accumulation of fat droplets around the body—too many white fat cells from insulin resistance and an unhealthy lifestyle can cause obesity. The process of fat browning converts WAT into BAT—the healthier type of fat.
Improved mitochondrial function through supporting the ECS may help to convert white fat into brown fat tissue, which has been shown to improve glucose intolerance and blood lipid abnormalities in animal studies .
CBD May Curb Appetite
One of the biggest hurdles in reducing body fat is appetite.
Our bodies haven't evolved much from our hunter and gatherer days—which means, our bodies are still designed to store foods as fats in case we ever enter a period of scarcity. For most people today, finding food isn't an issue. Our appetites remain high, which makes it easy to overindulge on our food intake.
Along with a healthy diet and exercise, controlling the appetite is an important part of reaching a lower body weight.
Some studies suggest that CBD can be used to support appetite control. Unlike THC—which is notorious for the "munchies" CBD seems to have the opposite effect and may reduce appetite.
The hypothalamus is a small, but important part of the brain. It controls things like hunger, thirst, and body temperature. It's also responsible for managing stress levels and controlling moods. CBD may improve the sensitivity of the hypothalamus for reading our hunger and thirst levels .
Safety And Side Effects Of CBD and Weight Loss
Hemp-derived CBD is found to be fairly safe and well-tolerated in most individuals, but it's important to find a high-quality CBD oil.
The hemp plant is very sensitive to its growing environment, which means pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants are often absorbed by the plant, and trace amounts of these harmful compounds may their way into your products, which is why it's important to shop with a reputable CBD brand that tests its hemp extract with a third-party lab for quality control and transparency.
Even with the best CBD oils, it's still possible to have a negative experience with the wrong doses and improper administration. Luckily, the common side effects of CBD are mild and temporary and can be mitigated.
Some of the side effects of CBD products may include:
- Upset stomach
- Negative prescription drug interactions (never take CBD without first consulting your doctor if you're on prescribed medications)
If you feel these effects, it's best to rest and let the CBD run its course. It should subside in 3–6 hours. You may have taken too much CBD at once for your body to handle, so you should dial down your dose next time.
In terms of weight loss in general, if you significantly reduce food intake, you may not be getting enough nutrients for your body to function optimally, which can have a negative impact on your health.
The best weight loss plans are lifestyle changes you can adopt in the long term, otherwise, you risk yo-yo-ing in weight—completely losing progress and may seriously hurt yourself.
Do CBD Weight Loss Products Work?
From the research highlighted above, we can see that CBD oils may have some potential in supporting certain metabolic factors—but we wouldn't exactly call it the next big diet compound.
CBD works by supporting the endocannabinoid system function for maintaining homeostasis in the body. We now know that our hunter-and-gatherer physiology and modern society make it easy to gain fat—which comes from an old survival mechanism.
CBD oils are a great way to help you support an overall better lifestyle—but they shouldn't be the only part of your weight loss journey. For example, if you are looking for ways to support muscle recovery from workouts and support a healthy sleep cycle, then CBD may help with these areas in your life that can help you get back on track to meet your fitness goals.
Pure CBD oil or any other CBD-infused products don't have evidence to directly fat burn for significant results on their own.
As a general rule when shopping for CBD products, steer clear of any marketing that promises too good to be true results—chances are they are. There are no CBD products on the market approved to make any medical claims to promote fat loss or treat any conditions.
How Are People Using CBD Oil For Weight Loss?
There are anecdotal reports of people using CBD products to support their wellness goals, including weight loss—but weight loss doesn't happen overnight.
People who see the most success in weight loss implement drastic lifestyle changes such as a nutrient-rich diet, stress management, exercise plans, and sometimes mental health therapy.
If you're set on using CBD to lose weight, choose hemp-derived CBD products over marijuana-based CBD products. CBD products made from hemp cannot have more than 0.3% THC—any more than this, you risk getting the munchies, which is more likely to make you hungry and overeat.
Many people are using CBD oils to support a better night's sleep or to support discomfort from challenging workouts. To get the most benefits from your CBD, choose an extract that's full spectrum or THC-free broad spectrum. These types of products contain a range of hemp's naturally occurring phytochemicals which help to balance the effects of CBD and make them much more potent than CBD isolate products.
Once you've landed on a good CBD oil, start with low doses of CBD daily 10–25 MG per day, and increase your doses gradually until you reach the desired effects. It can take some time for your endocannabinoid system to adjust to the supplemented cannabinoids—taking too much too soon can lead to adverse effects.
The Takeaway: Can CBD Help You Lose Weight?
CBD isn't exactly a fat-burning supplement or shows any drastic changes in controlling weight in the research we've encountered, but we do know that the endocannabinoid system does play a role in supporting healthy metabolic function and many other vital systems in maintaining homeostasis.
And CBD is a plant-derived compound that interacts with the ECS to help it communicate more effectively within these systems.
The key to successful weight loss is to consider long-term lifestyle changes. You shouldn't expect to melt fat off your body with any weight loss supplements or exercise regimens.
CBD oil can be a great addition to your wellness routine, but it's not a cure-all. Adding as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily and reducing the number of processed foods each day can go a long way in helping you find a healthier weight.
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