By Thomas Wrona
They say that maintaining a healthy weight is as easy as balancing calories in and calories out - simply burning off as much as you consume.
If only it were that simple in real life. For many of us, staying at the proper weight is an ongoing battle. That's if we can even get there in the first place.
And a person almost couldn't be blamed for succumbing to today's hyper-palatable food choices. At every turn, there's something delicious, calorific, and decidedly unlike anything our ancestors could've ever imagined eating.
CBD isn't a magic bullet that will have you dropping pounds left and right...but it might just be the perfect antidote for dieting's more subtle aspects. How?
Research shows that CBD may sensitize one's body to its hormonal status. And that means good things for dieters, many of whom have had their hunger hormones more or less ‘hijacked' by the hyper-tasty foods mentioned above.
CBD won't rev your metabolism back up to its college-era levels, either...but it might just subtly shift your body's preferred fuel source away from carbohydrates and towards fat.
Finally, CBD may reduce pain and increase mobility enough to make living the active life easier! And once physical activity becomes a habit, it's smooth sailing from there - as Isaac Newton famously said, an object in motion tends to remain in motion.
In this article we'll be taking an in-depth look at exactly how CBD can benefit your weight loss journey, focusing on the aforementioned three areas: hormones, metabolism, and mobility.
CBD and Hormonal Health
It may sound a little cryptic when we say CBD helps one's body communicate with itself, but don't forget that it's all due to CBD's impacts on the endocannabinoid system. The ECS, in turn, is so good at fostering cellular signaling that leading researchers call it "a literal bridge between body and mind." In this case, CBD's effect on the ECS means good things for hormonal health and signaling.
Several hormones are especially important to maintaining a healthy weight; the most important two are probably leptin and ghrelin. If these hormones are imbalanced - or worse, if one's body is no longer sensitive to them - then attempts to lose weight will likely be nothing but futile.
It's the same concept seen with insulin, a better-known metabolic hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. When insulin functions properly it helps one build muscle and shuttle nutrients around...but if one's body becomes insensitive to insulin things backfire and it begins to promote the storage of fat. Insulin resistance effectively locks fat cells in place, preventing them from being burned as fuel.
Good news: CBD seems to be good for insulin sensitivity, too! Many diabetics are surprised to find that only a few doses of CBD oil are enough to regulate their blood sugar, if only temporarily. CBD's anti-inflammatory action may also contribute to this beneficial result.
But back to leptin and ghrelin for a second. Leptin can be thought of as the body's master regulator of hunger, energy balance, and metabolism. When it's too low, one's metabolism becomes low, and when it's too high, one's metabolism can rev up.
In this way leptin regulates things almost like an internal thermostat. It may even be keeping your body at a certain weight - and if you're not happy with that weight, you might be leptin resistant. Only time will tell if leptin-based signaling, like the signaling of so many other hormones, could be improved with CBD...
CBD holds promise for optimizing ghrelin levels, too, and this area of research is a little farther along. Ghrelin produces hunger signals whenever it's time to eat; it may even contribute to one's preference for certain eating habits of mealtimes. Scientists are currently discovering that CBD could help reduce these hormonal hunger signals by antagonizing (i.e, quieting down) the brain's CB1 receptors. A 2012 study already found that CBD reduced food intake in rats, though more supporting research in humans is needed.
CBD and Your Metabolism
CBD means good things for mitochondrial health. In case you haven't been in a high-school science class recently, the mitochondria are the "powerhouse of the cell" responsible for energy conversion. Mitochondria use oxygen to convert large molecules (like the fats, proteins, and carbs we eat) into a specialized fuel called ATP.
Why's this important? Because mitochondrial health means energy gets burned efficiently - and conversely, mitochondrial disease has been tied to obesity. CBD might just protect against this sort of dysfunction, seeing as even the mitochondria have cannabinoid-sensing receptors. Studies from as far back as 2009 have already described how CBD strengthens mitochondria to regulate cellular stress, and it's likely only a matter of time until anti-obesity links are found as well.
CBD may also help your fat cells themselves stay healthy. Fat was once thought to be inert and practically useless, but that couldn't be much further from the truth. It turns out that some types of fat actually burn other types of fat for fuel - and thankfully, these special fat cells are exactly what CBD promotes.
That's according to a groundbreaking study completed in 2016, at least. Its researchers found that CBD promoted the development of brown adipose tissue (the metabolically active type of fat), which in turn promoted less overall fat production and more overall fat burning. Can you guess what makes brown fat, well, brown? An increased density of energy-producing mitochondria, of course!
Here's a concluding statement from the study's researchers themselves: "thus, CBD may be explored as a potentially promising therapeutic agent for the prevention of obesity."
And maybe it goes without saying, but CBD's powerful anti-inflammatory effects also bode well for metabolic health. Many people eating a standard American diet have chronically high inflammation, which has been correlated with diabetes, obesity, and the dreaded metabolic syndrome. If you find yourself in this situation, don't worry - but consider an anti-inflammatory diet and natural supplements like CBD.
CBD and the Active Lifestyle
CBD and the active lifestyle go hand in hand. It's only intuitive: if you're experiencing more hope, less pain, and reduced inflammation, then of course you'll gravitate towards being active! For obvious reasons, increased activity means you'll also gravitate towards a healthier weight.
Consistent physical activity means you'll be burning more calories, sure - but its benefits go much deeper than that. The human body isn't a calorie-counting machine, after all, but an ever-changing, always-evolving living being.
Indeed, increased physical activity has been tied to everything from improved mitochondrial health to enhanced leptin sensitivity to reduced inflammation. Exercise may even benefit the endocannabinoid system. If these effects seem familiar, it's because they are - it's almost like the active body wants to be healthy, fit, and thin.
It's safe to say that CBD may help you with both sides of the weight-management equation: correctly utilizing the energy of calories in, and being healthy enough to have fun getting calories out.
Thomas Wrona is a cannabis consultant, health + wellness advisor, and former professional athlete. He enjoys writing about all things CBD, both here and at Wrona Inc.