CBD, or cannabidiol, has become a popular ingredient with purported health-boosting properties, but is weight loss one of them? This article examines the evidence. While the verdict is still out on whether or not CBD oil can support a weight loss or…
Can CBD Help You Lose Weight?
A few years ago, most people had never heard of CBD (aka cannabidiol), but today more than half of American adults say they’ve tried a product containing it, according to a 2022 survey of 2,000 Americans conducted for Forbes Health by OnePoll. The compound, one of many found in cannabis and hemp plants, has become a popular addition to gummies, drinks, sprays, and even pet products. What makes it so popular?
“Research indicates that CBD may be effective for decreasing inflammation, pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, autoimmune and neurological disorders, and other debilitating conditions,” says Janice Newell Bissex, RDN, a holistic cannabis practitioner at Jannabis Wellness and the program director of cannabinoid medical sciences at John Patrick University School of Integrative and Functional Medicine in South Bend, Indiana.
But those aren’t the only reasons people are reaching for CBD. The latest buzz says it may help you eat less and lose weight. Does it deliver? Here’s what health experts want you to know.
What Is CBD?
It’s easy to confuse CBD with cannabis (the plant that marijuana comes from), but they aren’t the same thing. CBD is one of more than 100 compounds known as cannabinoids that are found in cannabis and hemp plants, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. THC (aka tetrahydrocannabinol) is another cannabinoid in cannabis (but not hemp, research shows) — but unlike THC, CBD isn’t a psychoactive substance, so it won’t get you high.
That doesn’t mean it’s entirely legal. Because cannabis is still a controlled substance, CBD derived from the cannabis plant is illegal at the federal level, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). On the other hand, hemp-derived CBD is legal in most states. But there are a few exceptions, and CBD laws are continually changing. The best way to know for sure is to check with your state’s health department.
Can CBD Help You Lose or Maintain Weight?
It has long been known that cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating appetite and metabolism, among other functions. Because of that relationship, researchers have been interested in exploring CBD’s therapeutic use in weight loss and obesity.
So far, however, most of the available research on CBD and weight has been conducted using animals or in vitro studies, not actual humans. Consider claims that CBD helps burn fat, for example. Those are based on a test-tube study that found that CBD may help convert unfavorable white fat into a calorie-burning type of fat called brown fat — in animal cells.
“Animal studies can tell us what to study in humans, but you can’t make a strong conclusion that CBD helps with weight loss based on animal studies,” says Peter Grinspoon, MD, a primary care physician and cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Sometimes animal studies translate to humans and sometimes they don’t, which is why you really have to do the studies in humans to make sure they work.” In general, he says, there are not a lot of great studies that show that CBD promotes weight loss in human beings: “It might make some people gain weight and it might make others lose weight.”
There’s a little more research on CBD’s parent, cannabis. But cannabis contains hundreds of compounds beyond CBD, so they’re hardly equivalent. For example, a study published in 2020 in Diabetes found that cannabis users metabolized glucose more efficiently than nonusers, but it is a huge leap to assume the same holds true for CBD. Right now, the official word from the American Diabetes Association is that CBD is unlikely to improve blood sugar or insulin levels in people with diabetes.
The results of a national three-year prospective study revealed that cannabis users are less prone to obesity than people who don’t use cannabis (in spite of marijuana’s reputation for making people pig out). And a study published in 2019 in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that cannabis users were less likely to gain weight than people who never touched the stuff.
But don’t get too excited, say the study’s authors: “We do not yet have sufficient definitive evidence to answer the ‘why?’ question,” says James C. Anthony, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Michigan State University and coauthor of the study. “We would like to see more replications of this inverse association before anyone makes large investments in research on the mechanisms.”
Dr. Anthony isn’t the only expert urging caution. “Right now, marketing claims are soaring high above the actual scientific evidence,” says Dr. Grinspoon. “That’s not to say CBD doesn’t work [for weight loss], but it hasn’t been proven to work as well as people are claiming.”
While there is little evidence that CBD use directly affects metabolism or appetite, it may help with weight control in other ways. “Many people eat more when they’re stressed or in pain or exhausted,” says Bissex. “So, if CBD can help to manage those issues, it makes sense that it may help decrease overeating.”
There is evidence that CDB may help in those situations. A retrospective study of 103 psychiatric clinic patients who were given CBD found that anxiety decreased and sleep improved in the majority of patients within the first month.
“Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase the release of ghrelin, which increases hunger and appetite,” Bissex adds. “By allowing for a better night’s sleep, it’s possible that CBD may thwart this ghrelin release, thereby decreasing appetite.” And if aches and pains are keeping you away from the gym, CBD’s anti-inflammatory action may ease muscle pain and fatigue, so that you can get moving again, per a review published in Frontiers in Physiology in 2021.
Risks or Side Effects of CBD
CBD is safe for most people, but not everyone. For example, if you have low blood pressure, large amounts could make you light-headed or dizzy, says Bissex. And while many people swear by CBD for sleep, some find that it leads to vivid dreams, which may be due to deeper REM sleep, she adds. Other than that, side effects like fatigue, nausea, upset stomach, and loss of appetite are usually mild and short-lived, according to Mayo Clinic — which could make you uncomfortable enough to eat less, but that is not a healthy or recommended strategy. High doses may cause liver injury, according to the FDA. CBD can also interact with certain drugs, especially blood thinners and thyroid medication, reports Harvard Health Publishing. So, if you’re considering trying CBD, talk to your doctor first.
What to Know if You Want to Try CBD for Weight Loss
Despite the buzz online and on social media, CBD experts don’t get the hype. “People ask about CBD for all kinds of things, but weight loss isn’t a common indication,” says Grinspoon.
If you’re still curious, look for the highest quality product available. “Avoid the cheaper CBD isolate products that may be sold at your local gas station or convenience store,” says Bissex. “These lack the synergy of the various components of the plant.” Instead, she recommends organically grown broad- or full-spectrum CBD. “Full-spectrum products contain all the components of the plant, including a small amount (less than 0.3 percent) of THC, while broad-spectrum contains all the components with zero THC,” she explains.
Should you try CBD for weight loss? Not based on the current research, but stay tuned. In the meantime, there are far more powerful, proven weight management strategies — namely a healthy diet and exercise.
Does CBD oil help with weight loss? Here’s how CBD plays a role in your fitness
Let’s be honest, CBD oil has become a recent craze in the health and wellness industry. Also known as cannabidiol, the second-most prevalent ingredient in cannabis, CBD is growing in popularity thanks to its lack of a “high” feeling — as well as a laundry list of purported health benefits — which has led both consumers and researchers to ask: Can CBD oil help with weight loss?
While the verdict is still out on whether or not CBD oil can support a weight loss or fitness routine, here’s what you need to know.
What is CBD oil?
CBD is one of the two main cannabinoids (or active compounds) found in the cannabis plant. Unlike the more commonly known THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD is a non-intoxicating extract, which means that it doesn’t cause the “high” commonly associated with cannabis use. While recreational use of cannabis has made many skeptical of CBD, it continues to rise in popularity thanks to its many potential health benefits — including treating pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorder.
So how does CBD oil help? Researchers believe that it might work with the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS) — a system that’s still being heavily researched — but is known to play an important role in the modulation of sleep, mood, appetite, memory, and hormone function.
“The endocannabinoid system’s main function is homeostasis: homeo meaning same, stasis meaning state,” says Dr. Jeff Chen, who is the founder of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative as well as the CEO and CoFounder of Radicle Science. “So the endocannabinoid system’s job is to maintain an equilibrium state in light of changing conditions. For example, if there is inflammation, endocannabinoid release is triggered to reduce inflammation. If there is excessive neuron firing that is signaling pain, endocannabinoid release is triggered to reduce neuron firing and pain signals.”
According to Dr. Chen, there are have animal studies suggesting that CBD can help slow the breakdown of endocannabinoid. But there isn’t any conclusive evidence that proves CBD has the same impact on humans because we’re still learning about how exactly CBD works.
5 ways CBD oil may help with weight loss
While a direct link between CBD usage and weight loss is still being researched, there are a few ways that CBD oil might be effective in supporting weight loss.
One of the most well-known uses of CBD oil is as an analgesic, AKA a pain reliever. A 2012 study indicates that CBD oil may be an effective treatment for those suffering from chronic pain, and other studies have also explored the effects of CBD use on patients with arthritis, noting a significant decrease in pain and inflammation with no adverse side effects.
This means if chronic pain has been preventing you from being able to exercise, CBD may provide you much-needed relief to restart your fitness journey, which in turn can help with weight loss.
While CBD’s stress-relieving properties might not seem like they’d directly impact weight loss, experts suggest otherwise.
“It can lift your mood and give you more motivation to do your workout,” says Dr. Felecia Dawson, a physician and cannabis advocate. Even better? “It can decrease pain and inflammation associated with exercising.”
How? Because CBD can improve your overall mood — with initial research suggesting that CBD might be a good treatment for anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even post-traumatic stress disorder — as your general mental health and sense of wellbeing improves, you’re far more likely to hit the gym. Motivation is a critical factor in whether or not many people reach their fitness goals, which is why supplementing with CBD might give you the boost you need to actually do your workout and stick to your fitness plan.
Boosting the metabolism
While CBD might have an indirect effect on weight loss, initial research suggests that it might benefit weight loss by increasing our metabolism. That’s because CBD impacts both our CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system that are associated with metabolism and hunger. Unlike CB1 receptors, CB2 receptors are not always active, but CBD can help activate them. When active, the CB2 receptors have been shown to have anti-obesity effects.
While the effects of CBD on the metabolism have largely only been studied in animals, a 2015 study on rats showed that CBD oil activated the CB2 receptors producing “a profound reduction in body weight gain” — even without reduced food intake. While much is to be explored about the ECS and CB2 receptors, this suggests that CBD usage might play a significant role in boosting our metabolism.
A further look into CBD’s effect on our metabolism reveals something researchers call fat “browning.” Typically, adults have an abundance of white fat cells — responsible for storing fat — located beneath the skin and in the abdominal cavity. The second type of fat cells, known as brown fat cells, are sparse and located in regions like the shoulder blades and spinal cord. More brown cells in the body are associated with overall better health and are known to encourage weight loss.
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A 2016 study revealed that CBD may interact with these fat cells in a huge way: fat “browning.” CBD in the body can promote a process known as transdifferentiation in which white fat cells are converted into brown fat cells. As more white fat cells become brown fat cells, lipid metabolism (aka fat burning) is increased.
Another promising weight loss area that CBD oil might impact is its potential to increase energy or wakefulness. However, more studies need to be done to confirm whether or not this is true.
While this isn’t directly linked to weight loss, having more energy typically translates to more energy being expended. If you feel an increase in energy after using CBD, you’re might be more likely to go for a walk around the block or make it to your workout class.
Improved sleep quality
As an added bonus, CBD oil can also help improve your sleep. Not only does this mean you’ll wake up feeling more rested when your alarm goes off for your morning workout. Better sleep can actually play a direct role in improving your weight loss.
In fact, experts suggest that sleep is one of the most critical — and most overlooked — factors in weight loss. A lack of sleep can translate into increased appetite, slower metabolism, reduced exercise levels, and more — all of which can greatly diminish your weight loss.
Sleep also plays an important role in recovery, meaning your night-time CBD use isn’t just helping you relax. It’s also making it easier for you to hit your fitness goals.
How to use CBD oil for weight loss
If you’re ready to incorporate CBD into your fitness routine, Dr. Dawson recommends starting with an organic or Clean Green Certified product that is third-party tested. She suggests using broad or full-spectrum CBD to get better results at a lower dose — especially when compared to an isolate.
As for when you should take CBD? It’s really up to you.
“If you want to absorb as much as you can from an oil, consume it after a meal containing fat post-workout. If you want to consume before the workout, a tablespoon of coconut oil may help you absorb more of it,” Dr. Dawson says. “If you want to inhale it, I recommend an electronic vaporizer made for dry herb before or after the activity. An ethanol-based tincture can be held under the tongue and can be used before or after the activity.”
While CBD oil has many positive effects, research is still pending for a direct connection between its usage and weight loss. CBD oil isn’t meant to be a holy grail product — or a substitute for living a healthy lifestyle.