Published: November 30th, 2017
Cannabidiol, along with other components of hemp and cannabis plants, has 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 metabolism. After all, some cannabinoids (such as THC, for example) have very clear metabolic effects, such as increasing appetite and altering feelings of satiety.
But what about CBD? How can cannabidiol, the second most abundant constituent of cannabis plants (and the highest in hemp) affect our metabolism? Read on to find out.
The short answer is yes. Recent research shows that CBD directly affects the body’s metabolism in a variety of ways.
In 2016, Korean researchers published an important study exploring the effect of CBD on “fat browning.” Brown fat, unlike white fat (which is believed to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and more), has been shown to help burn calories and energy, possibly assisting with weight loss.
The study, published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 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 and activity of mitochondria, 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 (researchers from the Department of Biotechnology at Daegu University, Korea) concluded that CBD can help convert white fat into beneficial brown fat.
In doing so, CBD can directly influence the body’s metabolism by promoting the burning of calories and energy.
CBD is able to interact with our body thanks to the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is made up of signalling chemicals, receptors, and metabolic enzymes, and has been shown to be involved in many physiological process. Metabolism is just one of them.
The endocannabinoid system has been shown to be directly involved in metabolic functions like energy storage and nutrient transport. Some research suggests it may also be involved in managing insulin sensitivity.
Some of the most obvious ways cannabis affects metabolism and food intake is by impacting appetite. Increased appetite and food intake are, after all, very common side effects of using cannabis, especially when it is rich in THC.
However, recent research shows that the endocannabinoid system can do much more than simply make you feel hungry. 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, the 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 adipose tissue, as well as 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. Chronic stimulation of the endocannabinoid system, for example, has been connected to increased levels of abdominal obesity, increased energy storage in fat cells, and even insulin resistance.
In fact, overstimulation of the CB1 receptors has been linked to increased chances of metabolic syndrome, a condition characterised by a variety of co-occurring symptoms like:
• High blood pressure
• High blood sugar
• Excess body fat around the waist and belly
• Abnormal cholesterol levels
This link was established by the Endocannabinoid Research Group, a group of researchers from Italy. The researchers suggested that CB1 antagonists (like CBD) may have a future in treating metabolic conditions.
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, for example, stimulated appetite, increased food intake, and lead to body weight gain. Meanwhile, CBD decreased appetite, lowered food intake, and also lowered weight gain.
THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, has also been shown to increase appetite and food intake. Surprisingly, chronic cannabis users consuming THC-rich strains have been shown to have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than non-users.
In this article, we’ve aimed to explore at least some of the ways that CBD and other cannabinoids (like CBN and THC) affect human metabolism.
However, it’s essential to recognise that our understanding of cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and their effect on metabolism is still in its infancy.
While there is a lot research finally being dedicated to this field, more is still needed to fully understand how cannabinoids affect our metabolism.