How Does CBD Affect Metabolism?

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Along with other compounds found in cannabis plants, cannabinoids have received a lot of attention in recent years. One area that has sparked a lot of interest from researchers, users, and the public in general is the effect of cannabinoids on human metabolism. After all, one of the best-known cannabinoids, THC, has very clear metabolic effects, such as increasing appetite—a phenomenon known as “the munchies”. But what about CBD? Does it also affect our metabolism? Read on to find out.

Can CBD affect metabolism?

The short answer is yes, several studies show that CBD affects the body’s metabolism in a variety of indirect ways. In 2016, Korean researchers from the Department of Biotechnology at Daegu University published an important study exploring the effect of CBD on “fat browning”. Brown fat, unlike white fat, has been shown to help burn calories and energy, possibly assisting with weight loss. White fat, on the other hand, is believed to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and more.

The study, published in the Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry journal, explored whether CBD could help turn white fat into brown fat, and therefore serve as a possible agent in the treatment of obesity.

The study found that CBD had three major effects on fat stores. First of all, CBD stimulated genes and proteins involved in augmenting the breakdown of fat. Secondly, the study found CBD to help increase the number of mitochondria and their activity, subsequently improving the body’s ability to burn energy. Finally, the study showed that CBD decreased the expression of specific proteins involved in creating new fat cells in the body.

Based on these results, the authors of the study concluded that CBD can help convert white fat into beneficial brown fat.

How is the endocannabinoid system involved in metabolism?

CBD is able to interact with the body predominantly via the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is made up of endocannabinoids, receptors (both in the nervous system and throughout the body), and metabolic enzymes, and has been shown to be involved in many physiological processes.

The ECS plays a role in such metabolic functions as energy storage and nutrient transport. Some research suggests it may also be involved in managing insulin sensitivity.

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology showed that the endocannabinoid system can stimulate specific areas of the body involved in metabolism. These areas include the gastrointestinal tract, skeletal muscles, and the endocrine pancreas, among others.

The endocannabinoid system does this naturally via two endogenous cannabinoids known as anandamide (also referred to as “the bliss molecule”) and 2-AG (or 2-arachidonoylglycerol). These compounds interact with two types of receptors (CB1 and CB2), which are located in the brain, digestive tract, and other parts of the body.

By stimulating receptors in these areas, CBD may subsequently help metabolise compounds absorbed from food during digestion.

However, it’s also important to realise that overstimulation of the endocannabinoid system has been linked to adverse effects, such as increased levels of abdominal obesity, increased energy storage in fat cells, and even insulin resistance.

In fact, overstimulation of CB1 may increase chances of metabolic syndrome, a condition characterised by a variety of co-occurring symptoms like high blood pressure and high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and belly, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

The Endocannabinoid Research Group, a group of researchers from Italy, established this link and also suggested that potential CB1 antagonists (like CBD) may have a future in treating metabolic conditions, such as metabolic syndrome.

It is also important to note that the effects of the ECS on metabolism can vary depending on the cannabinoids used to stimulate the system. This was shown in a 2012 study by researchers at the School of Pharmacy at The University of Reading, UK.

The study found, for example, that cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) have opposing effects on feeding patterns in rats. CBN stimulated appetite, increased food intake, and led to weight gain. Meanwhile, CBD decreased appetite and food intake, and helped decrease weight. Surprisingly, cannabis users consuming THC-rich strains have been shown to have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than non-use

CBD and metabolism: a new frontier

Research published to date shows that CBD influences metabolism in various ways. However, it’s essential to recognise that our understanding of cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and their effect on metabolism is still not extensive enough. More and more studies are being conducted in hopes that our knowledge will bloom and broaden in the coming years.



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