The cannabis plant contains over 100 active compounds known as cannabinoids. Two major cannabinoids that are well-known and well-researched for their promising medicinal applications are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). One thing that the cannabis plant continues to be known for is an appetite stimulant, but is that always the case and can that lead to unwanted weight gain?
The ability of THC to promote eating has been documented for centuries. The FDA has approved one synthetic form of THC, Dronabinol (Marinol), prescribed to those suffering from anorexia, nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy, and cachexia (wasting syndrome), which is often linked to diseases such as cancer, AIDS, heart failure, COPD, cystic fibrosis, and kidney disease. In certain states, these same diseases may be considered eligible conditions for a medical cannabis card.
Will the “munchies” cause weight gain?
User anecdotes suggest that cannabis use will promote appetite. Studies have shown that caloric intake increases among cannabis users when compared with non-users. This leads to the popular belief that cannabis use leads to weight gain, however many human epidemiological studies show the opposite.
Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1) activation by THC may stimulate short-term feeding when administered, however this does not necessarily mean weight gain will follow. When one study observed the effects of THC administration on diet-induced obese mice, data showed that chronic administration of THC prevented weight gain over time.
While THC may increase levels of ghrelin (“hunger hormone”) and activate dopamine levels that may enhance enjoyment of sensational eating, it may also affect leptin – the hormone responsible for regulating food intake and metabolic rate.
Cannabinoids and obesity
It was found in the US National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) that there is a lower prevalence of obesity in cannabis users compared with non-users. Anecdotes, preclinical studies, and cross-sectional evidence show inverse associations between cannabis use and obesity as well as inverse associations between cannabis use and increased BMI.
It is well established that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is involved in the regulation of energy balance and the development of obesity. Cannabinoid receptors regulate thermogenesis, food intake, and inflammation. Cannabinoid receptors are responsible for the browning of white adipose tissue (the process of burning fat in the body). CBD plays a modulatory role in this process as well as promotes lipid metabolism, therefore is considered a promising therapeutic agent for preventing obesity.
How cannabinoids may benefit anorexia and wasting syndrome
In 2011 a study looked at THC as an appetite stimulant for treatment of cancer-induced anorexia. The results showed that THC-treated patients reported premeal appetite, that food “tasted better”, and that quality of sleep and relaxation were increased.
Among appetite loss, afflictions of wasting syndrome include nausea, pain, anxiety, and inflammation. All of these symptoms may be mitigated with cannabis use.
The non-intoxicating cannabinoid, cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) shows promise that it may be helpful for nausea and vomiting, including anticipatory nausea for which no specific therapy is currently available. Anticipatory nausea is conditioned or psychological nausea, often provoked by a reminder of an event that leads to vomiting, such as an individual going through chemotherapy. This is researched to be a result of 5-HT receptor activation by CBDA.
Data has demonstrated in animal tests that another non-intoxicating cannabinoid, cannabigerol (CBG) showed as a novel appetite stimulant. The results showed that administration of CBG to rodents significantly increased total food intake in that they began feeding sooner, consumed more meals, and consumed more during those meals.
Changing the narrative: How cannabinoids may promote a healthy weight
The ECS plays a role with our appetite control – from the suppression of appetite to counter over-consumption to the treatment of conditions that involve reduced appetite and weight loss. This is why cannabinoid receptor antagonists (such as CBD) may manage obesity while agonists (such as THC) may be a therapy option for anorexia.
Unwanted weight gain may be attributed to poor sleep, lack of physical activity, and nutrition. Therefore the approach to combating this may be a combination of lifestyle changes.
Cannabinoid therapy may be a part of the equation for its potential to support our overall health and wellbeing. Research points towards cannabinoids as strong candidates for antioxidant, preventative, and recovery benefits. In addition, cannabinoids may decrease stress levels, improve sleep, and benefit metabolic syndrome.
Finding Support for Cannabinoid Therapy
When looking to cannabis for medical conditions, we always recommend speaking with a healthcare professional. However, if you are in need of support while on your journey we are here to help. From product selection to dosing guidance to answering questions your family has about your decision to choose cannabis – we are here every step of the way. Send as an email to email@example.com, call us at 719-347-5400 or chat with us at realmcaring.org.