THC, the psychoactive molecule in cannabis, is well known for triggering appetite. It’s even been used to treat people with eating disorders like anorexia, and to help with appetite loss following cancer treatment. But did you know that its cousin molecule, CBD, could actually have the opposite effect? Recent research shows that CBD could have a role to play in weight loss by helping us to burn fat more quickly. As for appetite, CBD doesn’t seem to make you hungrier—though it doesn’t suppress appetite with any reliability either. So, will CBD become the new weight loss supplement? Here’s what we know about its effects so far.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is a cannabinoid compound found in the cannabis plant, known for its many health properties. CBD can:
- Treat epilepsy and prevent seizures
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce arthritic, neuropathic, and chronic pain
- Treat and prevent migraines
- Treat Crohn’s disease and IBD
It also has some great holistic benefits for those who don’t suffer from any medical conditions. For example, it can:
- Help you sleep better
- Help to manage stress and anxiety
- Lift your mood
- Lower inflammation in the body
- Raise your pain threshold
How and why does CBD have so many health properties? To understand its effects on the body, you’ll have to become familiar with the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is a biological system running throughout the whole body. Its importance for health is huge: it’s a system that helps to regulate pain, inflammation, mood, appetite, and many other functions.
When we introduce cannabinoid compounds like CBD into the body, they enter the bloodstream and bind to the receptors of the endocannabinoid system. This gives the system a boost, resulting in many great health effects. For example, it can decrease pain and inflammation in the body, lift mood and release anxiety.
These are some of the best-known effects of CBD on the body. But every year, scientists are finding dozens more. For example, we’ve recently found that CBD could help with weight loss.
How does CBD work for weight loss?
In 2016, a group of scientists investigated the effects of CBD on human fat cells. The study found that CBD helped turn white fat cells into brown fat cells. In other words, it helped to turn harmful cells into ones that actively fight weight loss.
White fat is a type of fat that is associated with weight gain, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. We gain white fat by eating unhealthy foods like processed meats and fast food. It’s a fat that can be very difficult to get rid of, which is why many people struggle with weight loss.
Luckily, CBD might be a good way to fight those white fat cells. The study found that introducing CBD into the body helped to turn those white fat cells into brown fat. Brown fat cells actually help with weight loss, as they break down and burn fat tissue.
What’s more, turning white fat cells into brown fat cells consumes calories. In other words, CBD helps to raise your metabolism in the process of changing up your cells.
And according to the findings of the experiment, CBD also raised the mitochondria in brown fat cells, which could make them more effective in getting rid of fat.
With all these promising results, the scientists concluded that CBD could become a potential anti-obesity treatment.
Does CBD change your appetite?
In theory, CBD for weight loss could work by lowering your appetite, helping you to eat less. In practice, results are conflicting.
The reason CBD should influence your appetite is that it boosts the endocannabinoid system. That system regulates appetite (which is also why THC can make you hungrier).
There are some studies to support that claim. For example, a 2012 study conducted on rats found that giving them CBD resulted in a lower food intake. Researchers concluded that there was potential for using CBD for weight loss.
However, this was an animal study which scientists never replicated on humans. Moreover, there is anecdotal evidence that CBD makes some people hungrier. This was even listed as a potential side effect in a number of studies.
So while there is some reason to believe that CBD could help you eat less by lowering your appetite, research on the topic is not conclusive.
Does CBD have any side effects?
So far, we have very few studies on the effects of CBD for weight loss. That being said, the ones we do have did not note any dangerous side effects. Moreover, research on CBD is advanced enough to consider it a non-dangerous drug.
For example, a 2017 review put together dozens of studies on CBD to assess its side effects. It found that CBD had no life-threatening side effects, and only a few mild ones. Those included:
- Changes in appetite
Crucially, there were as many people reporting increased appetite as decreased appetite when taking CBD.
So while taking CBD for weight loss is unlikely to cause any harm, its effects might differ depending on the person. If CBD causes you to lose appetite or doesn’t cause any changes, you will benefit from its fat-burning properties which could help you lose weight. On the other hand, if CBD increases your appetite, you may find that this counterbalances its effects on your fat cells.
Is CBD legal?
CBD products that contain trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3%) are now legal on a federal level in the United States. However, they are not FDA-approved, and may still be illegal in certain states. Check your local laws before making a purchase.
Products and dosage
The market for CBD products is now bigger than ever. As a result, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of available products: oils, balms, edibles, sprays and vapes.
But if you want to take CBD for weight loss or another long-term condition, then oils remain your best option. Placing drops of CBD oil under your tongue is one of the most bioavailable methods of consumption (meaning, more CBD gets absorbed by your body). And unlike other methods like smoking and vaping, it’s perfectly safe for your system.
With so few studies on the use of CBD for weight loss, it’s hard to tell what dose might be effective. In general, we recommend starting out slow, with a dose between 5 to 10 mg of CBD. This allows you to see how well your body is reacting to the substance, and whether you experience any side effects.
Then, you’re free to increase the dose little by little until you find the desired effects. But for weight loss, these might not be visible straight away. This is why we recommend consulting a medical specialist or a nutritionist who will be able to recommend a good dose based on your height, weight and age.
Can CBD be effective for weight loss? The latest research on the effects of CBD on fat cells is very promising. It shows us that CBD could convert “bad fat” into “good fat.’ increase your metabolism, and even raise the number of mitochondria in the “good fat” cells. This could justify its use as a drug to prevent obesity and help with weight loss. But when it comes to using CBD to control appetite, things are a little murkier. Although there are studies to suggest it could lower your appetite, others have found the opposite results. All in all, CBD for weight loss is more likely to be effective in changing up your metabolism—which is already great news for those who want to lose weight!
CBD for weight loss
2016 study on the effects of CBD on fat cells
CBD for appetite
2012 study on CBD and appetite control
2017 study on the safety and side effects of CBD