Updated: Mar 21, 2021
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 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.
What does the research say?
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:
type 2 diabetes
high blood pressure
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.