What Does the Research Say About CBD for Weight Loss?

CBD is the latest craze to hit the market. While the claim is it can be a cure-all, which it is not, can it assist you with losing weight loss and what's current research say?
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michel moninger

Written by Michel Moninger

Updated January 8, 2021

Dr. El-Hajj

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sandra El-Hajj

According to the CDC, between 2013 and 2016, almost 50% of U.S. adults attempted to lose weight in any 12 month period1.  Clearly, weight loss is a priority for many people whether it is for health reasons or just to feel and look good. While many try to lose weight, finding the best way to do so can be a little tricky as there are a number of different techniques and “tricks” that can help you reach your desired goal. 

On the market, you can find an unlimited amount of supplements that promise to help you shed off your pounds while keeping the results after discontinuing the pills. While it may be the dream catch phrase for people, when a claim seems to be like an ultimate solution, it often is too dreamy to be true. Nothing alone helps you lose weight without any personal effort from your side. You will need to follow a balanced diet with an exercise regimen to lose weight. However, one cannot deny that there are some supplements that can help speed up and boost the weight loss2

One of the start and recently researched supplement that could help you reach your dream goal is CBD. So, what is CBD for weight loss? Although the FDA has only approved one CBD treatment for epilepsy, further research is being currently conducted to explore the potential benefits CBD has when it is taken as a supplement.

Why all the Interest in Weight Loss?

When it comes to weight loss, a cloud of controversies appears. In the old days, a little chubbiness used to be considered attractive, Now, everyone wants to have the perfect weight and shape. So, while some might be looking great and at their correct weight, they still look to lose weight to get to a lower clothing size. Each has his or her own motivating factors. While for esthetic reasons, weight loss may help boost self esteem. It is a necessity when it comes to health and wellness. Some resort to weight loss methods to address a certain health issue that started developing as a result of their above-normal weight. In this case,  their medical professionals will advise them to lose weight. 

Sometimes, weight gain can be the result of many factors from overeating to medication side effects, glandular dysfunctions, or other circumstances that cannot be controlled. Weight is classified according to a number called the BMI, basal metabolic index. This number is a ratio between the height and weight. It helps evaluate whether a person is at the correct weight. If the BMI is below 18.5, a person is considered to be underweight. Between 18.5 and 24.5, a person is considered to be at a normal weight. Between 25 and 29.9, a person is considered to be overweight; and finally, a BMI above 30 indicates that a person is obese.

Obesity is a major cause of concern in the United States and worldwide. A study done by Harvard projected that, under the same existing trends, by the year 2030 nearly half of the population of the USA will be obese. According to Steven Gormaker, Ph.D., obesity is associated with “increased rates of chronic disease and medical spending, and have negative consequences for life expectancy3. The prevalence of obesity is a primary reason many people seek out weight loss solutions. 

There are many environmental factors that can promote obesity. The main ones are accessibility to unhealthy food at a low cost, sedentary jobs, inactive leisure activities such as watching TV or playing video games, and others. Obesity is not an immediate reaction to a one-time event. It is not something that develops overnight; so, returning to normal weight can be a little challenging. Typically, a person is required to make some lifestyle changes that has to fix unhealthy habits. The bigger the weight loss need, the more accentuated would be the changes. Eventually, a dent would happen on a person's unhealthy routine and habits.

Whatever is your reason behind your new weight loss plan, “the most important component of an effective weight-management program must be the prevention of unwanted weight gain from excess body fat4.” This is a fact that many of us witnessed at multiple occasions: it is one thing to lose weight, but another to keep that weight off. Many diets claim extreme, drastic weight loss results. They do help people lose the weight; but, as soon as the person returns to their regular lifestyle, they gain it all back and very rapidly. That's why it matters how you lost the weight and not how fast you did it! 

Weight loss is not just a condition affecting adults. The CDC states that “obesity prevalence among children and adolescents is still too high5.” The CDC also explains that among children aged 2 to 19 years, about 18% struggle with obesity. Obesity, recognized as a Body Mass Index (BMI) beyond the 95th percentile, affects the lives of more children that fall into the overweight category. While some children learn about healthy lifestyles and eating habits as they age, many obese or overweight children grow up to be obese or overweight adults. With so many children having an unhealthy weight, as they grow we can expect to see rising numbers of overweight and obese adults.

With the current high prevalence rates of obesity that have been found to be on an exponentially increasing trend, weight loss became an important area of study. Many researchers are looking to find the key to help people with weight loss. One great solution may be CBD oil.

How Weight Loss Works

In order to fully understand the mechanisms that lead your weight loss plan to succeed, we need to understand how the body processes energy and nutrients. All foods contain three different types of macronutrients that must be digested before they can be absorbed: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. When we eat, the digestion process begins to break up the food that we eat so that these macronutrients can be processed and transported to their appropriate channels. It all starts in the mouth when food gets chopped and mixed with our enzyme-filled saliva6.  

Traditionally, and in the absence of facilitators, weight gain is the result of eating more energy (calories) than you are spending. However, some do gain weight due to glandular malfunctions and hormonal imbalances. In the same way, typical weight loss is simply the inverse. The number of macronutrients used by the body must be greater than those consumed. Someone can follow a very strict, low-calorie diet and still not lose weight if they are not expending much energy throughout the day. On the other hand, someone can eat a large number of calories and lose weight by exerting a large amount of energy7.

Talking about weight loss certainly portrays it to be an easy task; however, weight loss needs dedication and hard work. There are a number of factors that can complicate your goal. Genetics can play a part in how your body processes certain foods or food groups. Medications can take a poll on your hormones and make it more difficult to succeed in your weight loss journey. It might even make it an impossible task. And as with any lifestyle adaptation, changes in both the diet and exercise routine can be difficult to start and even harder to maintain. 

Because of these difficulties, many require a multifaceted approach to weight loss. Diet and exercise are obviously a necessity. Other techniques that may improve outcomes include food diaries, regular weigh-ins, and tracking activity. All theses are also shown to be helpful in keeping motivated and self-monitoring8.

Another challenge to weight loss comes from within. Many are willing to make changes in their life in order to maintain a healthy weight9. The challenge is maintaining this diet or adjusted lifestyle. Normally, when results are not seen immediately, or quick results are not satisfactory, many give up. This has led to many weight loss programs offering quick fixes. Many extreme diets focus on cutting out one specific macronutrient (low carb or low-fat diets) or taking an extreme approach to eat (extremely low calories). 

One more contributing factor that leads to weight gain is the environment. Too often, entire families struggle with weight gain. As friends and families eat together, they end up sharing the same unhealthy habits and food choices. Other habits, such as simplicity in ordering fast food, affordability of unhealthy meals, among others can also lead to weight gain obliging people to start looking for weight loss solutions.

How CBD can Help with Weight Loss

Thankfully, there is another solution that can help with weight loss. CBD oil for weight loss has been a major subject of research lately. At this time, the FDA does not recognize CBD as a medication dedicated for losing weight. However, the FDA does allow CBD use in supplements.   

While we will be exploring the possible benefits of CBD for weight loss, this does not replace  medical advice for using  CBD for weight loss. Instead, this article is information and portraying the latest research findings about the subject.

In order to better understand the role CBD can play in weight loss, we must first understand what effects CBD has on the body.

CBD interacts with a system in the body known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS)10. This system is made up of naturally created chemical transmitters as well as receptors. CBD and other cannabinoids work similarly to these endocannabinoids and use the same receptors to elicit a similar response.

Many people confuse all cannabinoids with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) . THC is commonly known for producing a psychoactive response resulting in a euphoric high. CBD, along with many other cannabinoids and cannabis derivatives, does not produce this effect.

Instead, CBD may produce a calming, mellow feeling. CBD has proven effective in producing an anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing effect11. However, CBD does more than calm the body.

Recent studies have shown that one of CBD's action includes blocking one particular receptor in the ECS, which made it the perfect viable treatment for central nervous system disorders, including epilepsy. Anxiety and depression have also been improved through CBD use. By blocking this particular receptor, CBD acts as an anti-obesity agent12.

The interaction between CBD and weight loss does not end there. Because of the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD, it can be the perfect solution for weight loss and associated issues.

For example, there are many who suffer from obesity and have chronic health conditions like diabetes, greater risk of heart attacks, neurodegenerative diseases, chronic pain, arthritis, and others. CBD has the potential to help out in many of these conditions. Numerous studies are ongoing to explain in more details how CBD helps people with such health conditions.

Does CBD actually help with weight loss? The answer is, quite possibly yes. While current research is lacking on the subject specifically, there are reasons to believe that CBD may be an effective tool in weight loss. While more studies are needed on humans, rat studies are showing promising results.

In a study, a group of rats was given a consistent and stable diet13. Along with this diet, some were given 2.5 or 5mg of CBD per kg of body weight, per day. After 14 days, weights were monitored again. While both rats demonstrated a decrease in body weight, those that received a higher dosage of CBD demonstrated a significantly higher weight loss after just 14 days.

While being very promising, alone, this study is not enough to show clearly how CBD is effective for weight loss. However, this study encouraged more scientists to conduct investigations about CBD oil and weight loss.

Another study was more focused on the process by which CBD promotes weight loss14. While weight loss has long been considered as a not-so-simple process, this study suggests that CBD has a significant impact on both your weight loss and fat gain. Research suggests that the CBD and the ECS completely alter the process by which the body processes food and stores energy as fat.

Essentially, CBD influences the body to store fat in a more readily accessible form that can be easily and more quickly burned. If further researches prove this claim to be accurate, this would be a major breakthrough in weight loss.

Despite such promising studies that have linked CBD to weight loss. More studies are needed to establish a flawless relationship. The FDA has only granted approval of CBD use for the treatment of epilepsy.

As research continues and we have a better understanding of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system, better supplements will eventually arise. However, these studies give a solid foundation to believe that research will show CBD to be an effective tool for weight loss.

CBD Products for Weight Loss

There are a wide variety of CBD products available on the market. The exact product that best fits your needs can only be found through research.

Some products are designed to be applied topically. Others have a more general effect by being ingested. Among edible CBD supplements, there are also a variety of techniques.

Vaporized CBD oil, gummies with CBD oil, tinctures of CBD oil, and more are all available. Before deciding on the product that you are interested in, talk to your doctor to make sure that you are picking the right solution for you. For example, topical balms will work well on targeted muscle pains and soreness; but, are not designed for an all-over effect like the one obtained with an ingested supplement 

Once you have decided on the type of CBD product for weight loss, the next step will be finding a reputable source. Because the FDA does not recognize CBD as a medication, there are fewer requirements regulating CBD supplements.

Therefore, you will have to do personal researches to find a safe and high-quality product for you.

One way to determine whether a CBD product is effective or not is through third-party testing. Since the FDA is not rigorously testing the quality of CBD products available today, most producers are taking it upon themselves to prove to their customers the quality of their products.

When looking at a CBD product, manufacturers should transparently show on the label what cannabinoids are present in their product. Some cannabinoids, like THC, create a sensation of being “high.” Each cannabinoid interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system differently. Knowing what exactly is in your CBD supplement is essential in making sure you get the results you are looking for.

Another important factor to consider when buying a CBD supplement is the ingredients. While CBD may be a powerful tool in weight loss, the effects can be minimized or even counteracted depending on the other incorporated ingredients.

Medications can also negate the efforts of CBD. Before starting on a CBD supplement or any other treatment, talk to your doctor to make sure it will not negatively impact any other treatments you are currently on. When selecting a CBD oil for weight loss, it is important to understand how all of the components work together to promote weight loss and health.

As with all supplements, it is essential to closely monitor your progress and any potential side effects that may exacerbate. Talk with your doctor or another medical professional if you notice anything different.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to serve as medical advice or replace the recommendations of your doctor. Talk to your doctor before pursuing any supplements or treatments. CBD and other cannabinoids are classified as food/dietary supplements, NOT as FDA-approved medications. We therefore cannot make any medical claims or give any medical advice concerning the healing powers of cannabis. This article is here to share the available literature on the subject. We can (and do) encourage you to research and try cannabis-based products as you see fit.

References

1Martin CB, Herrick KA, Sarafrazi N, Ogden CL. Attempts to lose weight among adults in the United States, 2013–2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 313. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018. Retrieved January 7, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db313.pdf 

2What to know before you buy weight-loss supplements. (2020, November 10). Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20046409

3Close to half of U.S. population projected to have obesity by 2030. (2020, March 28). Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/half-of-us-to-have-obesity-by-2030/

4Institute of Medicine; Food and Nutrition Board; Subcommittee on Military Weight Management; Committee on Military Nutrition Research. (2003, August 01). Weight Management: State of the Science and Opportunities for Military Programs. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.nap.edu/catalog/10783/weight-management-state-of-the-science-and-opportunities-for-military

5Childhood Obesity Facts. (2019, June 24). Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html

7Institute of Medicine; Food and Nutrition Board; Subcommittee on Military Weight Management; Committee on Military Nutrition Research. (2003, August 01). Weight Management: State of the Science and Opportunities for Military Programs. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.nap.edu/catalog/10783/weight-management-state-of-the-science-and-opportunities-for-military

8Painter, S. L., Ahmed, R., Hill, J. O., Kushner, R. F., Lindquist, R., Brunning, S., & Margulies, A. (2017). What Matters in Weight Loss? An In-Depth Analysis of Self-Monitoring. Journal of medical Internet research19(5), e160. https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.7457

9Koliaki, C., Spinos, T., Spinou, Μ., Brinia, Μ. E., Mitsopoulou, D., & Katsilambros, N. (2018). Defining the Optimal Dietary Approach for Safe, Effective and Sustainable Weight Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland)6(3), 73. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare6030073

10Lu, H., & Mackie, K. (2015, October 29). An Introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.07.028

 

12Bielawiec, P., Harasim-Symbor, E., & Chabowski, A. (2020, February 21). Phytocannabinoids: Useful Drugs for the Treatment of Obesity? Special Focus on Cannabidiol. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2020.00114/full

13Bogna Ignatowska-Jankowska, Maciej M. Jankowski, Artur H. Swiergiel, Cannabidiol decreases body weight gain in rats: Involvement of CB2 receptors, Neuroscience Letters, Volume 490, Issue 1, 2011, Pages 82-84, ISSN 0304-3940, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2010.12.031.

14Parray, H.A., Yun, J.W. Cannabidiol promotes browning in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Mol Cell Biochem 416131–139 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11010-016-2702-5