New research reveals how it can help curb appetite, melt away fat, and slash diabetes risk by 60 percent
In states that allow access to cannabis (“marijuana”) for medical purposes, most prescriptions are written for heavy-hitting, often life-threatening, diseases, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, seizures, and chronic pain (as I discussed in last month’s issue of Logical Health Alternatives).
But even before it was legally recognized as a legitimate medical treatment, it was a go-to treatment for patients suffering with severe nausea, appetite loss, and wasting. Mainly due to its powerful appetite-stimulating and nausea-quelling properties.
Unfortunately, these effects have contributed to some of the stigma that already surrounds the plant. And that stigma has scared many potential patients—who fear becoming lazy, hungry “stoners”—away from medical marijuana.
So if you’ve had your own reservations, you’re not alone. But that’s what makes today’s discussion so important. Because while the marijuana “munchies” are an actual phenomenon, the reality of regular use doesn’t quite square with its reputation.
The truth is, there’s no straight line from cannabis to couch potato syndrome and weight gain. In fact, research shows quite the opposite…
Unpacking the pot paradox
Researchers from Michigan State University recently published study results showing that cannabis users actually tend to weigh less than non-users.
They collected data from 33,000 participants of the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. And after looking for trends in body mass index (BMI), they found that on average, over the course of three years, marijuana users gained two pounds less than their non-using peers.
I realize this may not sound like a big difference. But it was consistent—and one that held regardless of other habits.
And this wasn’t the only consistent finding, either. Researchers also found that cannabis users—whether they’d just started or had been using for a while—were also less likely to be overweight or obese. (Only 15 percent of regular users qualified as obese, compared with 20 percent of non-users.)
Researchers aren’t quite sure how to explain this striking difference. But, knowing what we know about cannabinoid receptors in the human body, it seems likely that there’s more to this effect than meets the eye.
Battling obesity with endocannabinoids
As we discussed last month, cannabis contains two main cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The former is responsible for the plant’s psychoactive properties—meaning it’s the substance that gets you “high.” CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t.
But the differences don’t end there. As you might also recall, THC and CBD act on different cannabinoid receptors in your body—more specifically, CB1 and CB2 receptors, respectively.
The former, CB1, deals with the central nervous system—the latter plays a key role in blocking inflammation within your body’s tissues. But these receptors regulate appetite, too.
THC targets CB1 receptors in areas of the brain related to hunger and appetite control. It increases your levels of the hormone ghrelin, which your body produces when your stomach is empty. It also makes eating more pleasurable by ramping up levels of feel-good dopamine for a more rewarding sensory experience.
CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t hit any of these buttons. Rather, it relaxes your body and calms your digestion. It also packs a punch against pain and nausea—factors that could make mealtime easier when you’re ill… but that won’t increase your hunger otherwise.
What’s more, research shows that obese people actually have extra CB1 receptors in fatty tissue throughout their entire body. Findings also suggest that blocking these receptors—and stimulating CB2 receptors—might lower body weight and curb appetite.2
In other words, while THC triggers the “munchies,” CBD seems to have the opposite effect in blunting hunger and warding off obesity. All without any psychotropic effects.
A simple way to turn white fat brown
CBD doesn’t directly block CB1 or stimulate CB2 receptors. But it does appear to direct your body’s endocannabinoid system to turn its own receptors on and off in ways that promote fat-burning and weight loss.
And not just through appetite control, either. Incredibly, studies also show that CBD can turbocharge your metabolism by converting white fat to metabolically active brown fat.3
I first introduced the topic of brown fat back in the August 2016 issue. But in case you need a refresher, allow me to go back over the basics.
Unlike regular white fat, brown fat behaves more like muscle. It’s packed with mitochondria—the iron-rich parts of the cell that turn nutrients into energy (and which make the fat look brown).
This bestows brown fat with the unique ability to generate energy through a process called thermogenesis—which burns calories and creates heat—instead of storing energy like normal white fat.
In fact, even though brown fat only makes up a tiny fraction of the fat in our bodies, it has the potential to annihilate white fat, essentially causing it to melt away. And this has a number of metabolic benefits beyond simple weight loss.
Research shows that bigger stores of brown fat correlate to leaner bodies—and lower blood sugar levels, to boot.4 It also shows that older adults with a high BMI have lower brown fat stores across the board. And that aging plays a role in deactivating brown fat’s potent calorie-burning powers.
Needless to say, strategies that turn your brown fat stores back “on” can play a pretty significant role in preventing disease and maximizing longevity.
The problem is, there are only so many ways to trigger brown fat activation in the body. And the most common is through some kind of biological stressor—be it injury, disease, or simply cold temperatures.
But CBD simplifies the process. Which is why it may play a role in not only weight loss… but in regulating other critical metabolic functions—in effect fighting the diabesity epidemic, too.
Slash inflammation and diabetes risk by more than half
It may be too soon to hedge our bets on CBD as a cure for the diabesity crisis. But researchers are hard at work investigating its potential role in the fight.
And the results so far are promising. In fact, one 2012 study showed that marijuana use lowered risk of diabetes by nearly 60 percent. And rates of elevated C-reactive protein—the inflammatory marker with links to heart disease—were more than double among non-users compared to regular marijuana users. 5
Yet another study looked at data from nearly 5,000 participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, from 2005 to 2010. Researchers linked current marijuana use to 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels and a 17 percent reduction in insulin resistance—not to mention a significantly smaller waist circumference.6
Of course, this is less surprising when you remember the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD in particular. Which is why CBD may play an equally critical role in combating the many complications of the disease—from cardiovascular problems to neuropathic pain.
Research bears this benefit out—in animal models, at least. Preliminary study results show that CBD was able to cut total cholesterol by more than 25 percent among obese rats—while raising levels of “good” HDL cholesterol by 55 percent. CBD also boosted liver health markers and raised levels of adiponectin—a hormone involved in regulating insulin function and inflammation.7
Ample adiponectin maximizes your muscles’ ability to convert carbs into energy, which increases metabolism and fat burning, and takes the edge off of your appetite. So needless to say, any substance that keeps your levels on track is a critical ally to have in your arsenal.
Find a good product—and use it every day
Hopefully you’re starting to see why CBD is among the most talked about topics in America these days. As I explained last November, we may have finally found the first true panacea here… and it’s been growing right under our noses all along!
Of course, there’s still a lot to learn. But even if CBD doesn’t turn out to be the metabolic miracle we’ve been waiting for, one thing is clear: You have nothing to lose by trying it, especially if you struggle with chronic pain.
Most people tolerate CBD without any issues at all. But as with all things, there are some potential side effects—like sleepiness, diarrhea, and (of course) appetite and weight changes. And as with any medicine, dosage matters.
Someone with a higher BMI (or who is already a regular cannabis user) may need a higher dose, whereas someone with a more sensitive system may only require a small amount to reap the benefits.
CBD can also make other medications you’re taking more or less effective. So it’s important to work with a doctor familiar with this particular branch of medicine.
(To be certified in cannabis prescription, I had to take many hours’ worth of course work. So make sure you’re working with someone who knows the ropes, too. Ask your healthcare practitioner if they’re qualified. If not, you can find a reliable doctor near you by visiting this website: www.MarijuanaDoctors.com.)
As for the actual CBD product itself, you have a range of options. It’s available in tinctures and capsules, as well as oils and topical products. (My patients with joint pain and skin issues swear by these topical applications. Visit my website, www.DrPescatore.com, for my personal recommendations!)
And of course, quality counts, too. Most CBD comes from industrial hemp, allowing for a higher CBD content. Manufacturers actually extract the CBD and add it to a carrier oil.
I always recommend my patients use organic, full-spectrum hemp plant extract with an organic oil base. And like anything you do for your health, you’ll get the best results if you use it regularly and consistently.
- Alshaarawy O, et al. “Are cannabis users less likely to gain weight? Results from a national 3-year prospective study.” Int J Epidemiol. 2019 Mar 16.
- Rossi F, et al. “Role of cannabinoids in obesity.” Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Sep 10;19(9).
- Parray HA, et al. “Cannabidiol promotes browning in 3T3-L1 adipocytes.” Mol Cell Biochem. 2016 May;416(1-2):131-9.
- Virtanen KA, et al. “Functional brown adipose tissue in healthy adults.” N Engl J Med. 2009 Apr 9;360(15):1518-25.
- Rajavashisth TB, et al. “Decreased prevalence of diabetes in marijuana users: cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III.” BMJ Open. 2012 Feb 24;2:e000494.
- Penner EA, et al. “The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults.” Am J Med. 2013 Jul;126(7):583-9.
- Iffland K, et al. “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies.” Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017; 2(1): 139–154.