CBD for Weight Loss: Can It Help You Burn Fat?

Man running down road, CBD and weight loss

Many people have been reporting success in using CBD for weight loss. By suppressing appetite and helping the body burn fat more effectively, this safe-to-use and legal cannabinoid seems to be a promising tool for shedding excess pounds. Read on to learn what we know about it.

The massive industrialization of food production has brought about a sharp rise in average body weight in many developed countries, and especially in the US. High-fructose corn syrup, GMO products, sugar-filled beverages, chemical-infused meat, and greasy fast food are just a few of the abundantly available and affordable everyday killers at the root of this rise.

Being overweight or obese is the new, deadly normal. The CDC statistics from 2017–2018 tell a grim tale of the current situation. Here are some of the unavoidable facts from the report:

  • The prevalence of obesity was reportedly 42.4% in US adults. It was the most common in African Americans (49.6%), followed by Hispanics (44.8%), Caucasians (42.2%), and the lowest in the Asian American population (17.4%). The 2019 report added that the prevalence of obesity was 18.5% among children and adolescents.
  • The increase from 1999–2000 through 2017–2018 was by 12 percentage points (30.5% to 42.4%), and the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.
  • Conditions directly connected to obesity include heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer – these are a few of the leading causes of preventable, premature death.
  • Obesity places a huge burden on the healthcare system in the US and its economy. The annual cost of obesity was estimated at $147 billion in 2008; the average annual medical costs for obese people were estimated to be $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

Additionally, obesity causes a wide range of psychosocial and lifestyle damage, including fatigue, loss of will and ability for social activities, distorted self-image, depression, anxiety, and others.

The higher the weight, the more difficult it is to lose it; this most often leads to a spiral of helplessness, unless massive willpower is applied to implement the necessary life changes such as getting regular exercise, curbing the junk food cravings, and upholding a balanced, less processed diet.

Can CBD Help You Lose Weight?

Body weight has been an overarching problem since the rise of consumer culture, and there have been more and more “quick-fix” solutions offered to the desperate as the issue was growing from year to year. As you likely know by now, there is no magic solution that can help you lose weight quickly and effortlessly. However, there are dietary supplements that can accelerate the process, and CBD is quickly becoming a majorly popular option. Some CBD formulations include compounds which can also give you energy and motivation to exercise, on top of providing the appetite suppression effects of CBD itself.

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CBD products are extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant – the same one which is commonly grown for its psychoactive ingredient THC. However, the strains of Cannabis sativa used for making CBD oils, tinctures, edibles, and topical products have had THC bred out of them and contain only trace amounts of it (less than 0.3%). Due to this, using CBD for weight loss or any of its myriad other health benefits does not come with a psychoactive effect.

Online forums are becoming flooded with posts from users who have added CBD oils, tinctures, and/or edibles to their routine and started seeing rapid and significant weight loss, whether or not that was their intended purpose (some of the users weren’t happy as they reported losing more weight than they were comfortable with). Here are just a few of these stories: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

The forum posts and comments frequently include statements such as: “completely kills my appetite,” “I have to remind myself to eat,” “I have lost fat and gained more muscle mass. I also crave healthier food!” and so on. While this may sound like something straight out of a weight loss product commercial, referral links and specific brand promotion is almost non-existent in these discussions, indicating that these may be genuine admissions.

They are all anecdotal reports, however. Individual stories about benefits of products often disproportionately come from those who have had success with using them, and the reports cannot be generalized as too many individual factors are unaccounted for. What we can use to make generalizations are replicable results of scientific research…

Research on the Effectiveness of CBD for Weight Loss

Although human clinical trials specifically looking into using CBD for weight loss are amiss as of yet, many animal and in vitro (laboratory) studies have been conducted, showing promising preliminary results.

Firstly, it’s of note that cannabinoids, specifically CBD and THC, have been shown to regulate feeding behavior by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, one of the key endogenous signalling networks with receptors throughout the body, whose malfunction has been linked to overeating and obesity, and metabolic processes in general.

An animal model study from 2011 examined rats which were injected with CBD daily over a period of two weeks. Both the lower (2.5 mg/kg) and the higher (5 mg/kg) dose produced significant reductions in body weight gain, with the higher dose having a more salient effect.

The researchers concluded that this process involves the CB2 receptor, assumed to play a significant role in energy homeostasis. This aligns with the findings of subsequent studies, the most recent of which states that “Stimulation of CB2 […] promotes anti-obesity effects by reducing food intake and weight gain.”

Another study compared the effect of several different cannabinoids on feeding behavior of rats and found that CBD led to a significant reduction in food intake compared to the alternatives, which included cannabigerol and cannabinol, minor cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa.

An additional explanation comes from a line of research that looks into a phenomenon called “fat browning.” This is the process of conversion of white fat, which is responsible for storing and supplying energy, into brown fat, which is responsible for generating heat by burning calories. Levels of brown fat are significantly higher in people within the healthy weight range.

Woman lifting weight

Apparently, a study from 2016 found that CBD promotes the “browning” of white fat cells and enhances the expression of specific genes and proteins that assist this process.

Finally, the endocannabinoid system has also been associated with several other systems which have been connected with weight loss. CBD may interact with:

  • The functioning of the β-cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for secreting insulin and regulating blood glucose levels. This system contributes to overall immunity and speeds up metabolism, resulting in increased fat burning.
  • The PPAR receptors, which also regulate glucose metabolism and fat storage, balancing out the body’s energy needs.
  • The mitochondria within our cells, which play a central role in the functioning of the metabolic system, converting white fats and sugars into energy.

These appetite-curbing and fat-burning effects of CBD seem conceptually quite opposed to the phenomenon of “munchies” often reported by cannabis users. This is because most cannabis grown for recreational use is genetically bred to maximize the concentration of THC, while not caring particularly for the levels of CBD.

Interestingly, recent research shows that consuming THC+CBD-rich cannabis strains causes a significantly “reduced attentional bias to drug and food stimuli,” meaning that the CBD appears to “correct” the increased appetite caused by THC (as well as decreasing desire for consuming other intoxicants). This is one of the adjunct effects CBD exerts when consumed together with THC; they are collectively referred to as the “entourage” effect in cannabis.

Should You Try Using CBD for Weight Loss?

With abundant anecdotal reports, promising results of scientific studies, and sound multi-pronged chemical reasoning behind it, there seems to be no argument against trying CBD for weight loss. The side effects associated with consuming CBD oil, tinctures, and edibles are rare and minimal, making these products safe, legal, and solidly-backed scientifically.

However, it should be stressed again that CBD should not be approached as a miracle cure for weight problems. It may suppress your appetite and help your body burn white fat, but its true potential can only be harnessed if it’s used as a supplementary product in addition to a disciplined regimen consisting of a healthy diet and physical activity.

Have you tried using CBD oil for weight loss already? What are your experiences?

If you haven’t, are you considering it? What are your concerns?

Please share them with us in the comments below.


About Xavier Francuski

Born in India, grew up in Serbia, lived and traveled throughout the world, Xavier's uprooted existence fuels his instinct for exploration. With a masters degree in research psychology, he is a passionate educator on the topic of psychedelics, trying to reconcile the astounding nature of the realms beyond with what sense we can make of them in this one. Currently living in Southeast Asia and working as a staff writer for several major psychedelic websites.

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