The Companion

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Can CBD help with weight loss?

Let’s face it, whether you like it or not, there’s a lot of pressure to be slim. Every day we are inundated with images of “perfect” bodies and become increasingly frustrated and overwhelmed at the mammoth and often impossible task of trying to look even a little bit like those images.

What’s important to realise is that everyone has their own baseline healthy weight. Slimmer doesn’t mean healthier – there are many markers such as blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure that give you a much better picture of your overall health than what you see in the mirror. In fact, numerous studies have shown that it's possible to be healthy at many different weights. It’s the nutrients and energy in our diets that matter, not what the reading on the scale is.

This being said, we are only human, and want to feel and look good in our costumes on the beach. Self-esteem is important for mental health, and if it means losing a kg here or there to feel confident and happy within yourself then by all means, lose weight the healthy way.

So, what’s all this about CBD and weight loss? Well, along with a healthy diet and exercise, CBD oil could be a useful part of a weight-loss regimen.

In order to understand how, let’s first delve into some of the background of how CBD interacts with our bodies, namely within the endocannabinoid system.

The role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS)

Within our bodies, there is something called the endocannabinoid system. The ECS fights to maintain homeostasis and balance among the major functions in our bodies. This complex system is comprised of networks throughout the brain, as well as the central and peripheral nervous systems. It has a regulatory role in pain, inflammation, memory, emotion, sleep, and metabolic function.

Our bodies create their own cannabinoids, however, plant-based cannabinoids can help stimulate/ increase the functioning of your own ECS. CBD is a cannabinoid that interacts directly with your own ECS and pre-existing cannabinoid-like compounds in the body, which researchers believe might explain the incredible results yielded from its use. 

The ECS’s influence is exerted through a network of cell receptors, with the two main receptor types being CB1 and CB2. Neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids bind to these receptors, triggering various biological responses. While CB1 receptors are concentrated in the central nervous system, CB2 receptors can be found on cells throughout the body.

In people with obesity, however, CB1 receptors spread beyond the central nervous system, proliferating in fatty tissue. This suggests a connection between CB1 receptor activation and obesity.

In addition to endocannabinoids (the cannabinoids your own body makes), certain external compounds can also affect the ECS. These include CBD and other phytocannabinoids found in cannabis. CBD doesn't bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors directly, however, it has been shown to act on the ECS in complex, indirect ways.

Different types of fat

Although times are changing, in the past, when it came to weight loss and overall health, fat tended to be demonized. But, just like different foods contain healthy and unhealthy fats, body fat can also be healthy or harmful. In fact, our fat cells come in different colours- brown and white.

White adipose tissue - or "white fat"- is the result of storing excess calories. Too much white fat stored around the belly has been linked to a higher risk of metabolic disorders like diabetes, heart disease and other ailments.

Brown adipose tissue - or "brown fat" - on the other hand, is a healthy type of fat. Brown fat cells contain a high concentration of iron-rich mitochondria, which is what gives them their brown colour. These fat cells burn calories to generate heat, and may actually help combat obesity. Newborns, hibernating animals, and people with healthy metabolic function tend to have a higher percentage of brown fat vs white fat.

Luckily for us, recent research published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry found that CBD increases the expression of marker genes and proteins specific to brown fat. In other words, CBD could promote the conversion of white fat into brown fat (a process known as "fat browning"). In addition, the study showed that CBD decreased levels of proteins associated with white fat cell generation. Lastly, CBD also stimulated lipid metabolism (conversion of fat to energy), making it a promising option for obesity prevention.

I mean, does it get any better? Looks like it does!

Metabolic health and appetite control

Obesity has been noted as a risk factor for health problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. The key to that link is metabolic health. An excess of fat in the abdominal region has been associated with insulin resistance, a blood sugar problem that's often a precursor to more serious metabolic disorders.

Insulin resistance is when cells stop responding properly to the hormone insulin. Your body then struggles to process glucose and starts overproducing insulin to compensate. Thus, blood sugar levels go from being too high to dropping dramatically from the extra insulin. The result is similar to a sugar rush and subsequent crash. It's a rollercoaster that leaves you feeling sluggish, hungry, and prone to cravings. Something we have all experienced before after eating too much chocolate!

Research suggests that there is a link between the endocannabinoid system and metabolic regulation. Cannabinoid receptors found in the brain, endocrine pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract are an integrated part of the networks that regulate food intake and appetite.

CB1 receptor overactivation appears to play a role in visceral obesity⁠ (unhealthy fat stored around the belly). Visceral obesity, in particular, has been linked to various health risks, and CBD could play a role in preventing this. 

Studies have found that CBD may block the enzymes that activate CB1 receptors, with possible effects including appetite reduction and inhibition of weight gain.

Inflammation and oxidative stress have also been found to play a pivotal role in the development of metabolic syndrome. Through its action on the ECS, CBD has been shown to have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. That means it could support metabolic health in a holistic manner, acting through more than one mechanism.

This was highlighted in a study in the American Journal of Pathology where CBD was noted to have "tremendous therapeutic potential" in the treatment of metabolic disorders.

While more investigation is needed, researchers are hopeful for the future of clinical practice involving CBD.

Is CBD the next best thing?

Although there is a lot of interesting research being done, it is still early days for CBD and only time will tell if it is all it’s made out to be.

Nevertheless, from this preliminary research it seems that CBD can promote things like healthy "fat browning", possibly playing a role in regulating metabolism. Not only does this help balance blood sugar levels but it also promotes more stable energy levels and fewer cravings. Those effects alone can help you eat right, hit the gym, and be more consistent when it comes to making healthy decisions.

Therefore, while more clinical studies are needed, CBD oil along with diet and exercise may provide additional support for a healthy lifestyle that can lead to weight loss.