You will be surprised to know how curiously cannabis is related to weight loss or weight gain. In fact, there exists a rewarding connection between cannabis and weight management. But, many misconceptions circling around cannabis and its connection with either weight gain and weight loss clouds the issue. However, I will do my best to lift the fog off from many stereotypes such as “cannabis users are lazy, hence more likely to be obese”. In addition, you and I will also get to know to explore the science behind cannabis and weight management. So, keep reading.
Cannabis, Cannabinoids and Endocannabinoids – bonding chemically
Cannabis naturally produces many chemical compounds. Some of these chemical compounds exert notable impact on both our body and brain. These very compounds are known as cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidoil (CBD) are the two most notable psychoactive cannabinoids. To be honest, I find it particularly fascinating – even we human beings (homo sapiens sapiens) produce cannabinoids endogenously. These endogenously produced cannabinoids are therefore rightly called as endocannabinoids.
The Endocannabinoid System and Energy Metabolism
This queer connection between cannabis and our body gets further compelling. There exists an innate distinct well defined biological system involving endocannabinoids – the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Though scientists are still exploring to learn more about it. However, the scientific community concur on one aspect of it – Endocannabinoid System is associated with energy metabolism.
How Endocannabinoid System with Cannabinoids influence Energy Metabolism?
Scientifically, we know so far, is the Endocannabinoid Systems (ECS) controls the release of neurotransmitters. Anandamide, Dopamine, and Serotonin are few examples of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters in turn control many functions, including mood and sleep, appetite, pain and many others. Neurotransmitters interact with Cannabinoid Receptor type-1 (CB1) and Cannabinoid Receptor type-2 (CB2) receptors within the ECS. This cute chemistry between human physiology and cannabis has surprised many.
These associations have relevance in terms of treatment, as well. We will explore this aspect some other time. So, coming back to connection between Cannabis and weight loss and weight gain.
Cannabis and Weight Management
In some ways cannabis directly and in other ways it indirectly affects weight loss and weight gain.
Cannabis and Appetite
Cannabidiol (CBD) present in cannabis is reported to have an appetite-suppressant effect on our appetite. Unlike THC which stimulates appetite, CBD suppresses appetite. You end up eating far less, with isolated CBD, while THC induces munchies – the cravings to eat.
Cannabis and mitochondria – powerhouse of cells
Interestingly, weight loss is reported in many users predominantly consuming CBD, one of the two main cannabinoids present in cannabis or weed. CBD has a sizeable influence on mitochondria. Well, if you recall your biology lessons from school, you will concur that mitochondria are the power house of every cell. It plays an integral role in energy metabolism. Mitochondria helps in maintaining homeostasis. So, when mitochondria work optimally, homeostasis is maintained. CBD triggers mitochondria to manage sugar and fat storage and the energy consumption. Fat is a wonderful fuel for body. CBD and mitochondria help tap this aspect our body and maintain homeostasis.
Cannabis and fat metabolism
Actually there are two types of fat cells: Brown Fat Cells and White Fat Cells. Of the two, Brown Fat cells are good. On the contrary, White Fat Cells are not so good for our health. CBD consumption is known to cause the browning of the white fat cells. In short and layman terms – CBD stimulates the conversion of harmful white fats cells in to useful brown fats cells. However, these observations we made in animals. No conclusive proof of such experiments on human is yet available.
Cannabis and insulin
Insulin is a key trigger for weight management. Higher the level of insulin in our blood the more difficult it is for our body to burn fat. Surprisingly, the presence of cannabinoids in our blood stream is related to lower insulin levels, hence a greater propensity to burn fat. Lower prevalence of obesity and diabetes has been observed in cannabis users.
According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, cannabis users have 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels compared to non-cannabis-users. They also exhibited significant reduction in insulin resistance.
Smoking cannabis may cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure for several hours. This condition further results in increased energy expenditure. But if it can lead to noticeable weight loss or weight gain is debatable.
Upon a survey in an Inuit community, it shows that – smoking pot statistically correlates with lower body mass index (BMI), lower fat percentages, and lower fasting insulin levels. Researchers at Université Laval in Quebec, Canada conducted the survey in an Inuit community where more than half of the adults are frequent cannabis users.
So, there is a definite connection between cannabis and insulin.
Does cannabinoid make you eat more by increasing your appetite?
There is a general perception that cannabis makes you eat – the munchies effect. But does it affect weight management?
Cannabinoid produced endogenously or exogenously by triggering CB1-type receptor increases the detection of food by its aroma and also increases the food intake. This was learned through an experiment conducted in a lab on mice.
Anandamide – the pleasure cannabinoid
Anandamide is an endogenously produced cannabinoid. When we are hungry, Anandamide is released which stimulates CB-1 receptor. However, when we consume cannabis, it is THC that stimulates CB-1 receptor. Hence, due to over stimulation of CB-1 receptor, we get munchies.
In short cannabinoid through Endocannabinoid System (ECS) gives us the pleasure from eating.
So, those of you, struggling with low appetite and consecutively, low weight may resort to using weed to stimulate their appetite to gain weight. However, it is not as simple as this because when you consume cannabis, you take CBD as well. Now, CBD present in cannabis counters the effects of THC and work to suppress your appetite. It may surprise you that CBD affects insulin production, thereby controlling the blood-sugar level and consequently storage of fats.
Hence, when you consume cannabis, the THC present in it whets your appetite, while CBD regulates the metabolism controlling fat build up and storage.
So, we can say that high THC and low CBD strains may help you eat more, build and store fat, thus gain weight. While some may use high CBD strains to curb craving, in turn restricting their appetite and reign in any weight gain.
Why regular weed smoking is not a good option for increasing appetite and hence weight gain?
When you smoke weed on a regular basis, this leads to over stimulation of CB-1 receptor and the entire chain of you Endocannabinoid system. Therefore, one requires more weed to provide enough stimulation. This is precisely why “tolerance breaks” helps.
What other ways cannabis may be helping control weight?
Cannabis and Stress
We now know that cannabis helps reduce stress and anxiety. It can lift your mood and be happy and positive. Stress widely understood to be the key factor in weight gain. Weed can help you address stress and anxiety and help control your weight issues.
Cannabis and sleep
Cannabis also positively impacts sleep. For insomniacs weight gain could be an additional burden to carry through. But cannabis can improve your poor sleep patterns. This it can aids in considerably reducing the chances of possible weight gain.
Cannabis as an analgesic enables you to stay physically active at greater times.
This natural plant is also an effective pain reliever – an analgesic. You may leverage its analgesic abilities in increasing mobility and boosting energy consumption to shed a pound or two. For many it is be a big step.
Let us conclude then – Is cannabis actually any good to gain or lose weight?
Well, cannabis is good. Definitely.
As we have seen cannabis has cannabinoids which trigger and suppress appetite. Cannabis also regulates metabolism helping controlling fat accumulation and lowering the risk of both diabetes and obesity. We also learned that tolerance breaks can help us get full benefits of THC and CBD two principal cannabinoids present in cannabis.
Hybrid varieties of cannabis that has equal proportions of THC and CBD can be great options to boosting your metabolism. While you can switch between high THC and high CBD strains for getting the best of the two cannabinoids. You can address stress and appetite with it. You can do the same with sleep or insomnia.
On the whole, as I understand, Cannabis can be an add-on to your weight management program. It certainly cannot be be-all end-all strategy for weight management. I will strongly advise you not to make cannabis your go-to-thing for weight management.
Please do know that cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug. There are many aspects about it that still unknown. We are very much in an unchartered territory. Our knowledge and understanding of ECS is still in its infancy. Thus, it is better that we treat cannabis as weight management quick-pill. Physical activity and following a healthy lifestyle are still the best strategies for weight management. But cannabis definitely has potential.