Why we should take CBD for Obesity?
We can all agree that obesity and its related illnesses, such as type-II diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, are on the rise. They represent a grave public health concern for our present generation.
Although therapeutic agents are out in the market to both treat and improve these conditions, it is also evident that many of these agents pose a risk to patients’ health, if used for prolonged periods of time. For this reason, the medical community is interested in finding new therapeutic agents that will increase benefits for the patient while reducing the risks that come with them.
Cannabinoids have been posed as promising replacements for these questionably effective and highly toxic drugs. Specifically, cannabinoids have been found to have regulatory properties on appetite, food intake and energy expenditure through the endocannabinoid system as well as other systems throughout the body. This is the main reason why they seem to be an attractive solution to limit weight gain, promote weight loss and reduce obesity-related inflammation.
But there’s a catch…
Because of their psychoactive effects, healthcare providers recommend their use with extreme care or refrain from recommending their use all together.
What if I were to tell you that there are some cannabinoids that have no psychoactive effects like THC, yet still maintain their therapeutic properties for reducing or preventing obesity? Well, cannabidiol (CBD) is one of these cannabinoids which has time and time again been shown to reduce food intake, limit weight gain and promote weight loss without the unwanted “high”.
So how does this all work?
The following article will review some of the latest research regarding CBD and obesity, mainly through the review of animal studies. Additionally, it will shed some light on how CBD oil or other CBD products can be used in the future to help control the obesity epidemic.
CBD demonstrates weight control properties dependent on interaction with CB2 receptors
Previous research on the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids against obesity has been focused on their interaction with CB1 receptors (one of the two receptors related to the endocannabinoid system). As mentioned before, this approach has been unsuccessful, largely due
to the psychoactive properties of cannabinoids that bind to these receptors. Of course, this has prevented CB1 receptor cannabinoids from being used in a clinical setting.
CBD, on the contrary, has been shown to have a very weak preference for binding with CB1 receptors. According to various studies, CBD interacts more commonly with CB2 receptors which are also important for food consumption behavior, metabolism and controlling body weight. This draws a clear negative relation between CBD and obesity.
In a recent report reviewing the effects of repeated CBD administration on body weight in rats over a long-term treatment, a significant difference was shown between the percentage of weight gain in rats being administered CBD compared to the control group (those rats that were not given the treatment).
To assess whether CBD interacted with CB2 receptors to produce these effects on body weight control, researchers also pre-treated a group of the rats with a CB2 antagonist (AM630) before treating them with CBD. An antagonist is a molecule that interacts with the same receptor as another molecule, blocking this latter molecule’s effects. As hypothesized, administration of AM630 resulted in a reversal of effects of CBD and a higher body weight increase when compared to the group treated with CBD alone. This suggests that CBD potentially interacts with CB2 receptors to control body weight.
The first graph below shows the effects of increasing concentrations of CBD on body weight gain. From the decrease in body weight gain from CBD 2.5 mg/kg to 5 mg/kg, it is clearly seen that CBD shows a dose-response relationship. That is, its effects increase as the concentrations of administered CBD increase as well:
The second graph shows the results with the introduction of the CB2 receptor antagonist AM630. It is also clear on this graph that the biggest weight gain occurred in the group that was administered the antagonist + CBD. The lowest weight gain was seen when CBD was administered alone:
Fortunately, that is not all.
The authors also pointed out that CBD induces its body weight control properties by interacting with receptors opposite to the ones other cannabinoids interact with. This idea has led researchers to believe that CBD may have counteractive properties against THC, a cannabinoid commonly associated with an increase in appetite, food intake and preference for a high-fat diet.
CB2 receptors’ role has been backed up by the fact that CB2 receptor gene polymorphisms have been linked to eating disorders. Furthermore, other studies have shown CBD’s role in affecting food intake in mouse strains.
What is the significance of this in animal studies?
The fact that food intake and body weight gain have been shown to be affected in both mice and rats (two different animal species) suggests that there is a higher likelihood these results could be translated to humans as well.
CBD has the opposite effect of classical cannabinoids on rat feeding behavior
Of even greater interest is how CBD may affect feeding behavior rather than body weight gain. Although body weight is a relatively reliable measure of obesity, it still takes into account other things such as water and muscle weight.
Why does this matter? It matters because body weight does not only represent fat composition but includes other components that do not necessarily contribute to obesity related illnesses.
Hence, a better measure for predicting obesity is looking at feeding behavior in individuals. Particularly, studying behaviors that may lead to overeating and ultimately obesity. In addition, controlling food intake and feeding behavior is by far the best way to prevent obesity and reduce weight in overweight or obese patients.
In a report looking at how various cannabinoids may work as appetite suppressants for the purposes of weight control, adult male rats were administered with the following cannabinoids: cannabigerol, cannabidiol, cannabinol or cannabinol plus a CB1 antagonist (SR141716A).
The rodents were supplied with ample food. Food intake was measured after the cannabinoids were administered. The food intake was analyzed hourly by measuring total chow consumption.
In the case of cannabinol, an increase in appetite was seen through a decrease in the time between meals and an increase in total food intake. For cannabigerol, no changes in feeding behavior was seen. Conversely, CBD was shown to reduce the amount of chow the rodents consumed over the entire experiment.
These findings support two specific claims 1) CBD has the potential to work as an appetite suppressant agent 2) CBD has opposing effects to most cannabinoids, especially to THC, which is known to cause an increase in appetite. Of course, the mechanism by which CBD induces its appetite suppressant properties is unknown. Ideally, studies on brain activity and hormone levels during CBD administration should be continued. This will increase knowledge on how CBD is possibly signaling the body to reduce food intake.
CBD has been correlated with reduction of lipid levels inside cells, and inhibition of hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease)
The major problem with obesity is that it is directly linked to other conditions such as type-II diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, liver and even kidney malfunctions. Hepatic steatosis, also known as non-alcohol induced fatty liver, is a common complication in obese patients.
This condition reduces the liver’s ability to regulate energy homeostasis and process toxic products within the body. It can also negatively affect lipid and glucose metabolism leading to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
Additional to the other potential benefits of CBD administration like controlling weight gain, it has also been associated with reducing the risk for alcohol induced hepatic steatosis in mice. This in particular has led researchers to try to understand whether or not CBD can help with non-alcohol induced hepatic steatosis as well.
But of course with CBD, there is always more…
CBD has also been shown to reduce lipid levels within the liver. In zebrafish and obese mice study models, it has helped with mobilizing lipid yolk within the embryo as well inhibiting hepatic steatosis, respectively. It has been hypothesized that CBD induces these effects by promoting lipid clearance within cells.
A study at the University of Buckingham in the U.K looked at triglyceride levels in CBD treated and untreated cells after supplying cells with Oleic acid. To understand a little better, triglyceride molecules is the way in which lipids are stored within cells in the human body. On the other hand, oleic acid is a type of fatty acid (the main building block of lipids). In this study, Oleic acid was used to simulate a high fat diet in a cell model.
Throughout the study, it was consistently seen that CBD treated cells where showing similar triglyceride levels to cells that were not given any oleic acid. By the time eight days had gone by, triglyceride levels in CBD treated cells were almost identical to the triglyceride levels in oleic acid untreated cells. Finally, CBD untreated cells that were administered oleic acid had much higher levels of triglycerides than the two previous groups
Interestingly enough, this was the first study that demonstrated CBD’s potential ability to regulate intracellular lipid levels. This goes to show that CBD may not only induce its effects by interacting with CB2 receptors but it can also exert its effects via non-endocannabinoid receptors.