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Cannabidiol (CBD), is a non-psychotropic compound found in the Cannabis plant that has shown a lot of potential in regulating numerous body processes to achieve homeostasis. This compound has been shown to help with a wide range of ailments including: addiction, digestive issues, epilepsy and seizures, asthma, migraines, mood disorders, neurodegeneration, nausea, multiple sclerosis, among many others. In this article, we will focus on what the research says with regards to the use of CBD for obesity.
As we speak, obesity stands as one of the highest preventable causes of morbidity and mortality in developed nations. Scientists recently discovered that the prevalence of obesity is paradoxically much lower in cannabis users as compared to non-users. Furthermore, research shows that this difference is not accounted for by tobacco smoking, and it still exists even after adjusting for variables such as sex and age. Before we look at what the research on CBD for obesity says, let’s first get some context.
What is Obesity?
It is healthy and normal to have some cushioning to our bones in terms of fat. Ten, or even twenty extra pounds will not do the body any harm. Nonetheless, proper individual weight can be calculated using the body mass index (BMI) scale. This scale measures the percentage of fat within an individual’s body. According to the BMI scale, normal weight lies ranges from 18.5 to 24.9 on the BMI scale. Anything below 18.5 is considered underweight, while overweight falls between 25 to 29.9. If you register more than 30 on the BMI index, then you are obese.
In the U.S. the deep southern states record the highest numbers in terms of the people suffering from obesity. Arkansas leads the list with almost 40% of the residents surpassing a BMI of 30. On the contrary, Colorado, has the lowest obesity rates at 21.3%, beating states such as Hawaii, D.C. and California.
Obesity in Children
Obesity affects not only adults, but children as well. Results now show that over 23 million children and teenagers in the U.S. alone are suffering from obesity. This has led to over $117 billion being spent annually trying to fight this lethal condition.
Unfortunately, scientists and the medical community at large know little about the causes and cures of obesity. That being said, most of us know what it can lead to if left untreated. Obesity has been implicated in the development of various illnesses, including liver disease, cancer, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, fertility issues, just to mention a few.
Consequently, researchers have been searching for safe and effective novel agents that can be used to control this little-understood condition, and the use of CBD for obesity may actually tip the scale in the right direction.
CBD’s Surprising Benefits with Regards to Obesity
The findings that Cannabis is able to cut weight are paradoxical since for a long time now, it has been known that exposure to Cannabis produces a heightened sense of appetite, a phenomenon commonly known as the ‘munchies’.
Obviously, this realization led to the investigation of the role of the endocannabinoid system in controlling obesity and related metabolic syndromes. Subsequently, the efforts led to the development of a successful therapeutic approach for obesity. The method was comprised of blocking CB1 receptors using ligands such as Rimonabant so as to reduce weight loss and boost the metabolic profile of the subject. Despite being effective, Rimonabant was implicated with increased depression and anxiety levels, and was therefore removed from the market.
As things stand, scientists have gone back to the drawing board to try and formulate a different agent with less severe side effects.
Studies testing the use of CBD for Obesity
Relationship between CBD, fasting insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance in the body
One study set out to find out more with regards to the correlation between cannabinoids and metabolic processes. The authors were inspired by past epidemiologic studies that have consistently found lower prevalence rates of obesity and diabetes mellitus in marijuana users compared to non-users. This suggested a correlation between cannabinoids and peripheral metabolic actions. This was the first study to investigate the relationship between CBD and fasting insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance in the body.
Of the 4657 adult men and women who participated in the study, 579 turned out to be current marijuana users, 1975 were past users and the rest were non-users. After conducting multivariable adjusted models, the current Cannabis users were correlated with 16% lower fasting insulin levels and 17% lower homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). The authors also noted substantial relationships between Cannabis use and smaller waist circumferences.
Effects of cannabinoids on feeding behaviors
Another investigation tried to assess the effects of individual phytocannabinoids found in Cannabis, including cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN) and cannabidiol (CBD), upon feeding behaviors using rats as models. The scientists noted that CBN induced a CB(1)R-mediated improvement in appetitive behaviors and also increased consummatory behaviors through increases in meal size and duration. On the contrary, CBD was able to reduce the total chow consumption significantly over the test period. CBG induced no changes to feeding behavior of the rats.
This was the first study to show that CBN can impact feeding behaviors, suggesting a better alternative to the currently used and psychoactive THC-based agents such as Rimonabant.
More interestingly, cannabidiol (CBD) reduced food intake in the rat models, confirming some existing reports, and raising the need to conduct more tests to examine the full potential of CBD’s anti-obesity effects.
Possible ways of How CBD Works to Combat Obesity
The endocannabinoid signaling system is composed of endocannabinoids, endocannabinoid anabolic and catabolic enzymes as well CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. This system has been shown to be involved with the control of lipid and glucose metabolism at various levels. Scientists now think that this interaction has the possible endpoint of the accumulation of energy as fat.
In the event of unbalanced energy intake, the EC system becomes dysregulated. This leads to hyperactivity of the EC in numerous organs that are responsible for maintaining energy balance, specifically in intra-abdominal adipose tissue.
Scientists now believe that this dysregulation of the EC system plays a big factor in the accumulation of excess visceral fat, as well as reduced adiponectin release from adipose tissue. In addition, this homeostatic imbalance has been associated with the onset of several cardiometabolic risk factors that lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. One study surmises that this phenomenon might form the method of action of phytocannabinoids such as CBD, which bolster the EC signaling system by minimizing the extent of its dysregulation.
The endocannabinoid system is normally well-maintained by hormones and neuropeptides. However, both the central and peripheral aspects of this regulation can become dysregulated and pose a risk of developing obesity, dyslipidemia, and type 2 diabetes. This has raised the possibility that CB1 and CB2 receptor antagonists might be valuable in treating these metabolic disorders using compounds such as CBD that do not induce any psychotropic effects. Furthermore, there is emerging proof that cannabidiol (CBD) can also be employed to retard β-cell damage in type 1 diabetes, but that is a topic for another day.
Below is a list of all the studies summarized in this article.
Research and Case Studies on the effects of Cannabis to treat Obesity:
- The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among USadults
- Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns
- Cannabis and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for weight loss?
- The endocannabinoid system in obesity and type 2 diabetes
- Role of the endocannabinoid system in abdominal obesity and the implications for cardiovascular risk
- Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids in metabolic disorders with focus on diabetes
CBDpromotes browning in 3T3–L1adipocytes
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