Since the modern way of eating has become widespread and intertwined in our society, there are more and more individuals who find weight a challenge. Weight loss is a central issue that is addressed in many different ways, from vinegar consumption, to miracle pills and preparations, to deliberate starvation. Human creativity knows no boundaries. Neither does the belief in a simple solution, or a pill that will solve all problems. Healthy weight loss and, above all, effective weight loss in the long term is a different story, but one that requires a little more knowledge and determination.
While experts agree that increased physical activity and healthy eating is the basis for long-term weight loss, many people are turning to alternatives for extra help. But how many people think of cannabis and its cannabinoids when the subject comes up?
Cannabis is well known for its ability to trigger hunger, so it seems paradoxical that the same plant could help with weight loss. But research shows the opposite. They find that cannabis users are much less likely to be overweight than non-users.
Let’s explore how weight loss is linked to cannabis and what’s behind it.
WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE?
The correlation between weight loss and cannabis has often been coincidental. Usually, researchers go to see what effects cannabis has on glucose levels, cardiovascular risks, epilepsy or chronic diseases, and in the course of their research they find that it can also have an effect on weight loss.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
According to the summary, 17 studies showed that cannabis users have a lower BMI on average compared to non-users. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight used in adult men and women.
The approximate difference across studies was 1.5 kg (Cannabis users: 26 kg/m2, Non-users: 27.5 kg/m2), which does not sound very large. However, this clinically significant difference suggests that cannabis users are leaner and closer to a healthy BMI. One study even found that higher frequency of cannabis use is associated with lower BMI. Other studies have found that 53.7% of non-users, 36.7% of occasional users and 28.7% of frequent users are overweight.
The Biggest Surprise
Research shows that cannabis users not only have a lower BMI, but also consume more calories than non-users. On average, cannabis users consume 834 calories per day more than non-users. However, this extra food does not seem to cause an increase in BMI or weight gain.
CANNABINOIDS, BODY WEIGHT AND CALORIE INTAKE?
In 2018, a team of researchers came up with a theory for this paradox. They hypothesised that cannabis may lower energy storage and boost metabolic function.
An unbalanced diet can cause CB1 receptors and the endocannabinoid system to stop working optimally. Especially if too many omega-6 fatty acids are consumed in proportion to omega-3 fatty acids. The endocannabinoid system plays a fundamental role in regulating appetite, metabolism and energy storage. Most diets in the West are high in omega-6 and low in omega-3, which can over-stimulate CB1 receptors. This can lead to inflammation and rapid weight gain.
METABOLISM AND DIET
The research team found that exposure to THC can block the function of CB1 receptors. As a result, it can help regulate the effects of inflammation and weight gain. Other scientists are also flirting with the idea that cannabis may regulate metabolism in such a way that body weight rises in underweight individuals, but not in average or overweight individuals.
Healthy Weight Loss: Cannabinoids to Reduce Appetite
Other research focuses specifically on the role of cannabinoids in eating patterns. While THC stimulates appetite, other cannabinoids such as CBD and THCV reduce it.
A 2022 abstract provided evidence that CBD can reduce appetite and increase satiety. In one of the studies reviewed, participants receiving CBD also had a reduction in BMI. Overall, however, lower doses of CBD have been shown to lead to a smaller reduction in appetite, while higher doses lead to a larger reduction in appetite. THCV may also improve glucose control which in turn supports weight loss (weight loss).
Cannabis can also help for healthy weight loss in other ways. For example, if you don’t get enough sleep or have poor quality sleep, this triggers the hormone ghrelin, which affects hunger and the way fat is stored in the body. Cannabis can help you sleep tremendously and as a result can help you lose weight. It also helps with pain management and therefore helps us to do activities to help us achieve weight loss.
Bad Fat to Good Fat
There are also claims that CBD turns white or ‘bad’ fat into brown fat, which can help the body burn calories. But white fat can also increase the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes.
A 2016 study also supports the above claim. The researchers found that CBD plays several roles in the interaction between the body and fat. CBD helped turn white fat cells into brown ones. It also stimulated the body to break down fat more efficiently. Researchers think CBD holds great promise for anti-obesity therapies, but more studies in humans are needed.
But research from 2018 also explains how CBD breaks down fat cells in the body.
Reducing the Risk of Metabolic Diseases
According to another study from 2018, there is a very close link between being overweight and various metabolic diseases such as:
- Type 2 diabetes,
- High blood pressure,
- High cholesterol.
Over-stimulation of cannabinoid receptors in the body is partly to blame. Over-stimulation of CB1 receptors in adipose tissue can contribute to excess weight and the risk of developing metabolic conditions.
The review in Cannabis & Cannabinoid Research also summarises some studies around CBD and metabolic factors in animals. For example, CBD therapy in overweight rats lowered total cholesterol by 25%. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant effect may also lower blood sugar levels and increase liver health factors.
Despite the positive effects of cannabinoids, they cannot eradicate bad habits. They are extremely good at supporting the body and achieving better results, but each individual must also take care of the basics. Cannabis does not promise “instant” results like some miracle pills or potions. But it can promise to reward our effort and discipline richly. An approach of proper nutrition, physical activity (preferably in nature) and also relaxation (meditation, nature walks, etc.) will have the best effects when using cannabis. Healthy weight loss cannot be a one-off event. It is a lifestyle change. The more positive changes you make the greater the effects. Choose one or two to start with and the results will follow. But cannabinoids will support you all the way.
17. 01. 2023
G. D. C.