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How Does CBD Affect Metabolism?

Last updated: April 29th, 2019

Published: November 30th, 2017

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.

It is well known that THC affects metabolism, but does CBD have similar effects? Let's explore recent research to find out.

Cannabis and Metabolism: Can CBD Help With Weight Loss?

New research is slowly transforming the way we look at the cannabis plant. A new trend is suggesting that cannabis can help with weight loss. But is this fact or fiction? We take a look at the research to give you the lowdown.

Understanding the connection between cannabis, CBD, and metabolism.


As any dieter will tell you, losing weight is hard. It’s also a very personal journey to take. For some, it amounts to limiting alcohol; for others, it’s a symptom of modern-day tension.

Whether you work too much or have children, there’s never enough hours in the day. Then, for those of us who like to relax with a joint at the end of it, you inevitably wind up with the munchies.

Recently, the internet has been abuzz with reports that CBD oil is a promising alternative weight loss supplement. But how true are these claims, exactly? Is CBD good for weight loss?

Potentially, but not directly.

The Endocannabinoid System and Metabolism

What the science all boils down to is our old friend, the endocannabinoid system. Named after the plant that led to its discovery, the ECS is what helps cannabinoids—such as CBD or THC—interact with our body.

Concerning the ECS and weight loss/metabolism, we know it’s directly connected to energy storage and transporting nutrients. As a result, it helps regulate everything from mood and sleep to temperature and inflammation. One study even found the endocannabinoid system to stimulate areas of the body [1] involved in metabolism, such as the gastrointestinal tract and pancreas.

As far as the science goes, the endocannabinoid system is made up of metabolic enzymes that stimulate various parts of the body. It does this primarily via two endogenous compounds—anandamide and 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol) [2] —that target CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body. Given that cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with these receptors too, it stands to reason that cannabis might be able to aid metabolism and/or weight loss in some respect.

While research on the endocannabinoid system and metabolism is still mounting, we’re learning more about it every year.

Anandamide Breaking Down

Anandamide Breaking Down

Marijuana and Weight Loss: What’s the Connection?

Although we all reach for the nearest snack after a good high, marijuana use doesn’t equate to obesity. In fact, in one study, scientists found that regular cannabis users are less likely to be obese. What it boils down to are two factors: terminology and individuality.

When it comes to weed, most use “cannabis” and “marijuana” interchangeably. However, they’re not the same in this context. Cannabis is the name for the plant, while marijuana is the name for the psychoactive buds it produces—its crop, so to speak. And while cannabis is made up of hundreds of cannabinoid compounds, the main one in marijuana is THC.

But when it comes to weight loss, it all boils down to CBD.

CBD and Metabolism

All cannabinoids have different effects, but they tend to have similar or complementary interactions with the ECS. There are four main ways in which CBD may be able to affect or alter our metabolism.

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Mitochondrial Function

If you remember only one thing from science class, it’s got to be: mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. You might even say it’s the spice of life.

Mitochondria convert sugars, fats, and proteins into the energy that sustains our bodies. Thus, mitochondrial imbalances can affect the way we burn energy, making it harder to lose weight. As a result, fixing those imbalances can greatly increase metabolic health and kick things back into gear.

CBD appears to regulate mitochondrial activity [3] , whipping our ECS into shape, which then helps us achieve metabolic balance, or homeostasis. With that in mind, could CBD combined with diet and exercise possibly increase the rate at which we burn fat? Let’s examine that a bit closer.

Fat Browning

Fat is a complicated macronutrient. We automatically think of it as a bad thing. Scientifically speaking, however, that isn’t the case. On the contrary, there are actually two types of fat in our body: the good fat (brown), and the bad (white).

White fat is predominant: It’s the fat we developed to keep us from starving when we were but cave-dwelling creatures. White fat stores and supplies our body with energy, cushioning our organs for extreme scenarios we won’t face in our lifetimes. As a result, white fat can really mess with the metabolism. Brown fat, on the other hand, generates heat and burns calories.

In a study published in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, researchers found that CBD can convert white fat to brown [4] . While further human studies are needed, this poses great potential for using CBD oil alongside a weight loss or management programme.

CBD and Metabolism

Insulin Regulation

In order to keep the body safe, the liver removes toxins and converts excess sugars into insulin. These sugars come from basically everything we put into our bodies, be it fruit or beer. From there, it’s passed on to the pancreas, which sends it to the cells.

Irregular insulin levels can overload the liver and pancreas, throwing the body out of whack. Furthermore, too much insulin in the bloodstream means we can’t burn fat. Consequently, you’re going to have a much harder time dropping the pounds.

CBD has some potential to stabilise insulin levels, henceforth kickstarting the process of curbing weight. This is demonstrated by a preclinical study [5] that found CBD to lower instances of diabetes in non-diabetic mice.

Appetite Suppression

Marijuana (led by THC) is an appetite stimulant. As a result, some doctors prescribe medical marijuana to chemotherapy patients whose appetites have been affected. Of course, anyone who’s gotten the munchies will probably cosign that in a heartbeat.

While it’s true that THC makes you hungry, this is not the case with CBD. Believed to be more of an appetite suppressant, isolated CBD will not have you shoving sweets into your face. Instead, as a 2012 study on rats shows, it is more likely to reduce food intake [6] .

Does CBD Help You Lose Weight?

CBD is not a one-size-fits-all weight loss solution. In fact, some people might actually gain weight when using it. With research still being so new, it’s going to take some time until we know more about CBD’s effects on our metabolism.

For now, the best way to see if it works for you, individually, is to pay attention to how—or if—your appetite changes while using high-CBD strains or oils.

Does Smoking Weed Promote Weight Loss?

No. It’s very rare that smoking weed will help you lose weight.

However, experts believe it can help with some of the underlying factors related to obesity, such as promoting healthy sleep and lowering tension.

Why Does Cannabis Make You Hungry?

That familiar craving you get when you’re high comes down to THC; the same compound that gets you high. Although research is still in its infancy, one study published in Nature Neuroscience [7] gets us a bit closer to figuring out why.

THC increases the pleasure we get from certain things; therefore, if there’s chocolate in the fridge, it’ll taste even better when you’re high than it does normally. One way to fix this “issue” is to have healthier alternatives at hand for when the munchies hit. Let’s face it, you’ll gain less weight with carrot sticks than you would a slice of cake.

Why Does Cannabis Make You Hungry?

Controversy of Using CBD or Marijuana for Weight Loss

While there are potential benefits to using CBD for weight loss, there are plenty of controversies to even the playing field.

The biggest issue is that there haven’t been any studies into using CBD to lose weight directly, at least not in humans. Although animal studies exist, we won’t have real answers until we know its effects on us. For now, everything is just conjecture.

In a study in the American Journal of Medicine, researchers found that marijuana use offered a 17% reduction in fasting insulin [8] . That being said, a different study in Translational Psychiatry found that increased ECS activity [9] may lead to insulin resistance and obesity.

Similarly, in the case of a study that indicated lower rates of obesity in cannabis smokers, its authors go on to say weed shouldn’t be relied upon [10] as a dietary aid. Their study simply didn’t indicate a clear relationship between marijuana and weight loss.

Cannabis, Metabolism, and Weight Loss: The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, there’s no evidence that smoking weed can help you lose weight. Moreover, adding CBD into a weight loss plan without exercising or maintaining a healthy diet likely won’t do much either.

On the other hand, adding CBD to a healthy exercise and eating plan could be an excellent complement, thanks to its versatility and overall support of the ECS. At the very least, there is nothing to indicate that taking CBD will make you gain weight. And, since it’s well tolerated and offers numerous other benefits, there’s really nothing standing in the way of you incorporating CBD into your weight loss or weight management regimen.

When it comes to weed, we've all heard about—or experienced first-hand—the munchies. But could cannabis actually help you lose weight? What about CBD?