Does CBD oil cause weight gain?

by Apoorva Shivankar, M.D

Does CBD oil cause weight gain?

Can CBD oil increase your weight?

Big Question, isn’t it?

Surely it is. It can raise goosebumps if you are a CBD-lover as well as health freak like me. Almost 70% of us know and actually experience how hard it is to get a slender waistline and maintain a respectable score in kgs. Strict dieting, rigorous exercise, skipping an ice-cream on a bright sunny day, variety of pills, continuously calculating the calorie intakes and whatnot.

How can our wonder drug make us all these efforts futile? ‘CBD you can’t do this to us’, shouts my internal voice. But is it really true? Let’s try to figure it out together.

Cannabidiol or CBD needs no introduction today. It is one of the most trending and acclaimed drugs worldwide which has crept into nearly every facet of daily life, from the bakery shop to a doctors’ clinic. 

Popular for its diverse health benefits such as analgesic, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant with almost nil side-effects, this CBD oil is derived from hemp variety of cannabis plant. Yes, the same cannabis plant that is known to induce munchies and cause weight gain, is the source of CBD oil too.

Thus, the fact of being a cannabis product itself can serve as a strong link suggesting how using CBD may cause human body gain weight.

Common sense says ‘more the appetite, more is the food intake and higher is the resultant body weight’. So, let’s begin our trial with

The connection between appetite, cannabis and eventually CBD oil

Cannabis contains over 100 cannabinoids of which THC and CBD are the most significant ones. These cannabinoids work through cb1 and cb2 receptors of the master regulator of our mind and body, ‘THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM (ECS)’. This ECS regulates mood, appetite, cognition, inflammation, pain, immune system and more importantly metabolisms and energy balance.

THC in cannabis binds to the CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system to enhance mood (the ‘get you high’ effect), and even stimulate appetite leading to marijuana munchies responsible for cannabis-induced weight gain. What actually happens here is that the neurotransmitter released by the THC activated CB1 receptors super-excites the pleasure and appetite centres in the brain, making even the normal food generate cravings.

On the contrary, studies have shown that CBD allosterically inhibits the binding of THC to CB1 receptors counteracting the appetite stimulation effect. Thus, primafacy, CBD suppresses appetite, averts overeating and eventually prevents weight gain and obesity.

CBD oil lacks THC

Another point in favour of CBD is that even the full-spectrum CBD oil extracted from hemp variety contains little to almost nil quantities of THC, not sufficient enough to show effects. On the other hand, the higher content of CBD present here, stabilizes appetite (through ECS), helps your body to better understand whether it is full or when it’s time to eat or stop, preventing any excess weight gain.

Scientific proof:

This hypothesis is backed up by a rat study5 published in 2012 by the University of Reading wherein it was observed that tetrahydrocannabinol increases food cravings by exaggerating the pleasure signals so that every food starts smelling and tasting delicious whereas cannabidiol diminishes food intake by suppressing our body’s pleasure signals.

Verdict:

Taking CBD oil does not cause weight gain by stimulating appetite. Instead, it suppresses hunger and weight gain seen due to THC in CBD users.

Fat deposit plays a major role in weight gain

Do you know our body contains two types of fats?

White fat (bad) is the one that gets deposited causing an increase in weight and chronic diseases like hypertension, heart diseases, etc. whereas brown fat (good) that promotes weight loss by burning calories and heat generation.

  • CBD oil shows a tremendous potential to convert the bad white fat into the good brown fat which then burns off as energy. No deposits, no weight gain.
  • In addition, CBD oil also prevents the formation of fatty cells by reducing the activity of proteins involved.
  • CBD oil also facilitates the breakdown of fat deposits by stimulating the corresponding genes and proteins needed.

All these mechanisms impress upon the weight losing ability of CBD oil.

Scientific back-up:

  • A study8 conducted in 2016 demonstrated that CBD can be influential in browning of the notorious white fat, reducing lipogenesis and encouraging lipolysis.
  • Rossi et al (2018)9 supported the fat-breaking and lipogenesis-preventing potential of CBD.

Verdict:

In terms of fat deposit and burning calories, CBD oil favours weight loss.

 

Metabolism is a great determinant of weight gain

  • Sluggish metabolism leads to the accumulation of unmetabolized carbohydrates and fats which ultimately get deposited as white adipose tissue causing weight gain. CBD oil via ECS is known to speed up fat and carbohydrate metabolisms to avoid any excess deposits and promote weight loss.

  • Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, converts sugars, fats, and proteins into energy that sustains our body. CBD upsurges the number and activity of this mitochondria boosting the ability of every cell to metabolize higher amounts of carbohydrates, fats or proteins to generate energy and thereby preventing the excess deposition. Thus, CBD oils can act as natural carbohydrate and fat burners in the body.

  • By stabilizing the insulin levels, CBD can keep a check on the weight gain process.

Scientific support:

A mouse cell line study10 published in 2017 confirmed the role of CBD in speeding up carbohydrate metabolism.

Verdict:

Once again CBD induces weight loss by facilitating rapid metabolism and preventing excess deposition.

Emotions, stress, anxiety and depression-induced weight gain

  • These are the major culprits for weight gain in the modern world.
  • Emotional Eating: Cortisol is a stress response hormone. Increased cortisol levels stimulate a rise in insulin levels and corresponding fall in sugar levels. This results in sugar cravings. Furthermore, cortisol also slows down your metabolism. This over-eating coupled with low metabolism causes weight gain in stressful situations.
  • Stress further adds to the gain as during stressed periods
  • You skip your regular exercises,
  • You skip your daily meals; this drives you towards unhealthy food habits like fast-foods.
  • You skip the water and later thirst is confused with hunger.
  • Stress makes you sleep-deprived and lack of sleep slows down the metabolism, leading to fat depositions. 

CBD with it’s a strong anxiety-reducing, stress-bursting, antidepressant and relaxation properties elate your mood, reduces cravings and regulates weight.

Scientific evidence

A study11 published in 2015 showed that women subjected to stress a day prior to the test burnt significantly lower calories as compared to non-stressed women indicating stress-induced sluggish metabolism.

Verdict

Knowing the properties of CBD, it can be concluded that CBD oil can easily deal with the weight gain by relieving stress or mood disorders.

From the above discussion, it is clear that CBD is beneficial for either preventing weight gain or even promoting weight loss. Great, isn’t it? To add to our joy, a rat study1 published in Neuroscience letters in 2011 showed that CBD can cause a significant decrease in weight gain by directly acting through CB2 receptors of ECS.

Does that mean CBD do not cause weight gain?

What about the speculations circulating around stating that CBD may induce weight gain as a side effect?

No, CBD can surely raise body weight. The claims still stand upright and there are a few scientific studies3,6 corroborating an increased hunger in children being treated with CBD for some form of epilepsies. This increased appetite can be explained as an indirect result of CBD therapy or due to other ingredients of CBD oil. Let’s see the

Possible theories explaining the reason behind CBD induced weight gain

Increasing appetite in an indirect way

Certain disorders or mental conditions take away your normal appetite and cause excessive weight loss.

These situations include:

  • Nausea and vomiting due to GI upset, certain medications like antibiotics, antidepressants; illnesses like HIV, cancers; or treatments like chemotherapy
  • Epilepsy
  • Extreme depression.
  • Debilitating pains.
  • Nail biting anxiety, etc.

In such situations, CBD rushes in to cure or at least soothe some of the symptoms by virtue of its antianxiety, anti-inflammatory, analgesic or relaxation properties and brings the lost appetite and weight back on track.

Excess THC

Except for Epidiolex, none of the CBD products is FDA approved and hence lack strict regulations for their product development and selling protocols. As a result, certain substandard products with a higher concentration of THC are also available and THC as you know is a great appetite stimulator that increases hunger and causes weight gain. Always go for a high-quality product.

Terpenes

Terpenes are the aromatic compounds present in cannabis plants which are extracted with CBD and retained in broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD products. Certain terpenes, such as humulene, act as appetite suppressants. Other terpenes, such as myrcene, are great for stimulating the appetite.

  • Last but not the least, genetic variability in people affecting the weight regulation in humans can’t be ignored.

To conclude

As per the studies available, we do not see any excessive, unwanted weight gaining side effect attributed to CBD. Instead, it appears to be a very good internal weight management tool.

But, not to forget most of the studies are conducted in animal models and as a whole, research is in a very preliminary phase. We need a lot of in-depth human studies to reach any conclusions.

FAQs

Q. How to take CBD oil with or before meals?

You can take it anytime but combining it with food intake can maximize absorption.

Q. Can CBD be recommended exclusively to lose weight?

No, because

  • Weight loss induced by CBD is very subtle and not as effective as currently used weight loss measures.
  • Lack of sufficient scientific evidence.
  • Very expensive compared to current regimes available to lose weight.
  • It’s a nice to have feature accompanying other beneficial uses.

Q. What all things should be checked while buying CBD oil?

  • Source of CBD product -organically grown on frequently checked soil.
  • Check the labels: for THC concentration and the presence of other ingredients.
  • Avoid any artificial sweeteners, preservatives, flavouring agents and chemicals.
  • Select Non-GMO CBD product.
  • Always look for a Certificate of Analysis.

Q. Can CBD cause an overdose?

Extremely rare. It is very well tolerated in super high doses such as 1500mg/day too and any excess amount is easily excreted out of the body.

References:

  1. Ignatowska-Jankowska B, Jankowski MM, Swiergiel AH. Cannabidiol decreases body weight gain in rats: involvement of CB2 receptors. Neurosci Lett. 2011 Feb 18;490(1):82-4. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2010.12.031. Epub 2010 Dec 21. PMID: 21172406.

  2. Cota D, Marsicano G, Lutz B, Vicennati V, Stalla GK, Pasquali R, Pagotto U. Endogenous cannabinoid system as a modulator of food intake. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Mar;27(3):289-301. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802250. PMID: 12629555.

  3. Hussain SA, Zhou R, Jacobson C, Weng J, Cheng E, Lay J, Hung P, Lerner JT, Sankar R. Perceived efficacy of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis extracts for treatment of pediatric epilepsy: A potential role for infantile spasms and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Epilepsy Behav. 2015 Jun;47:138-41. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2015.04.009. Epub 2015 Apr 29. PMID: 25935511.

  4. Corroon J, Phillips JA. A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2018 Jul 1;3(1):152-161. doi: 10.1089/can.2018.0006. PMID: 30014038; PMCID: PMC6043845.

  5. Farrimond JA, Whalley BJ, Williams CM. Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Sep;223(1):117-29. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2697-x. Epub 2012 Apr 28. PMID: 22543671.

  6. Pamplona FA, da Silva LR, Coan AC. Potential Clinical Benefits of CBD-Rich Cannabis Extracts Over Purified CBD in Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy: Observational Data Meta-analysis. Front Neurol. 2018 Sep 12;9:759. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2018.00759. Erratum in: Front Neurol. 2019 Jan 10;9:1050. PMID: 30258398; PMCID: PMC6143706.

  7. Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017 Jun 1;2(1):139-154. doi: 10.1089/can.2016.0034. PMID: 28861514; PMCID: PMC5569602.

  8. Parray HA, Yun JW. Cannabidiol promotes browning in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Mol Cell Biochem. 2016 May;416(1-2):131-9. doi: 10.1007/s11010-016-2702-5. Epub 2016 Apr 11. PMID: 27067870.

  9. Rossi F, Punzo F, Umano GR, Argenziano M, Miraglia Del Giudice E. Role of Cannabinoids in Obesity. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Sep 10;19(9):2690. doi: 10.3390/ijms19092690. PMID: 30201891; PMCID: PMC6163475.

  10. Sun S, Hu F, Wu J, Zhang S. Cannabidiol attenuates OGD/R-induced damage by enhancing mitochondrial bioenergetics and modulating glucose metabolism via pentose-phosphate pathway in hippocampal neurons. Redox Biol. 2017 Apr;11:577-585. doi: 10.1016/j.redox.2016.12.029. Epub 2016 Dec 31. PMID: 28110213; PMCID: PMC5247568.

  11. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Habash DL, Fagundes CP, Andridge R, Peng J, Malarkey WB, Belury MA. Daily stressors, past depression, and metabolic responses to high-fat meals: a novel path to obesity. Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Apr 1;77(7):653-60. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.05.018. Epub 2014 Jul 14. PMID: 25034950; PMCID: PMC4289126.

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