Has anybody else noticed that Instagram is littered with ads and influencers claiming that CBD helped them lose weight and wondered, ‘is it true’? While it has been scientifically proven that the endocannabinoid system plays an integral role in soothing the inflammatory conditions caused by obesity, in terms of the regulation of energy and the intestinal permeability of the gut, the science is not yet definite on CBD and weight loss.
It is clear, though, that CBD can help manage or suppress the weight-related complications that follow obesity. Via direct and indirect physiological processes of the body, the endocannabinoid system helps control the development of obesity and its inflammatory conditions. Additionally, those who are obese can actually experience dysregulated endocannabinoid functioning when eating.
Can CBD help you lose weight?
By means of controlling the activity of peripheral and central neural pathways, cannabinoids are vital to the satisfaction derived from hedonic eating (or eating for enjoyment as opposed to function).
We know that endocannabinoids are responsible for satiation. AEA (the endocannabinoid that THC essentially masks itself as) has been established to activate the receptors that signal hunger. AEA levels increase when the body is fasting and lower after food is consumed. This is why when a person consumes THC, he or she becomes hungry. On the contrary, 2AG (the endocannabinoid that CBD essentially masks itself as) levels increase as food is consumed. This is why some claim that CBD helps them with weight loss.
Interestingly, a study found that after consuming chocolate, those who were obese had increased levels of AEA (the opposite of what has been found in non-obese individuals previously). This has led scientists to suggest that this may indicate the dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system as a characteristic of obesity.
This is a very new science, so no definite conclusions can be drawn yet. Regardless, it is interesting to wonder—why are obese people getting increased signaling that the body is hungry from their endocannabinoid receptors after chocolate consumption? We already knew that those who struggle with obesity are facing a battle against their own physiology, but it seems that there is more to these battles than science currently understands.
What creates obesity?
The ‘thrifty gene hypothesis’ proposes that evolution favored the physiological mechanisms which increase survival and, therefore, enhance energy storage, i.e. we like fatty foods. This may be the reason why when people are stressed, they reach for rich, fatty foods. If feeling unsafe, one might partake in this primal act of safety and assurance of survival. Comfort food, anyone?
Usually, obesity is caused by energy intake being higher than energy expenditure, i.e., more calories being taken in than used. A mismatched energy balance changes the gut’s permeability, which leads to systemic inflammation. It is important to remember that this is not always the case—therefore, it is not wise to make assumptions.
Activities and functions of the gut are regulated by endocannabinoids, which are incorporated in the brain stem—this is how the ECS modulates visceral sensation (pain/bloating/nausea/etc.) and lessens the blows of stress on GI functioning.
2AG, the endocannabinoid CBD essentially masks itself as, is responsible for activating the immune receptors, or the CB2 receptors. The endocannabinoid system has more receptors than any other system of the body; this enables cannabinoids to target inflammation exactly where it manifests. Think of inflammation as a fire—CBD cools the flames.
Complications of gut function
Previous blogs have discussed how the endocannabinoid system is an important modulator of the central nervous system, or the system of the brain and the spinal cord, yet the enteric nervous system, or ENS, has yet to be covered. The ENS is referred to as the “second brain” due to its ability to operate independently of the brain, as well as the spinal cord.
Cannabinoids control the neuro-immune access of the ENS, via effects of the glial cells; this is how cannabinoids reduce intestinal inflammation. Enteric glial cells (ECG) actively mediate acute and chronic inflammation in the gut. Among other responsibilities, these cells are a key in maintaining tissue homeostasis and immune surveillance. CBD is particularly interesting in its ability to control the reactive changes of glial cells in the ENS without any unwanted psychotropic effects.
These glial cells may represent a very important link between the central nervous system and the immune system of the gut. Because cannabinoids are able to target and control the glial cells’ actions, cannabinoids are able to reduce intestinal damage in the tissues of the gut.
It seems to be the case that cannabinoids help the gut function better
and changes in the gut can lead to changes in obesity.
It is not easy
Once fat cells begin to form, all they want to do is create more of themselves. This turns into both a physical and psychological battle that is harder to face than anyone not living with obesity realizes. While CBD is not a miracle cure for obesity, it can perhaps be a miracle in making living with or overcoming the downsides of obesity less painful and more manageable.
An Article By Evie Louise
Evie Louise is a recent psychology graduate from New York University. She is a certified in International Cannabinoid Clinical Therapy. Evie sees all forms of the cannabis sativa plant as the future of psychiatry, and hopes to use it in her therapy practice as a full spectrum approach to mental health and wellness.