Obesity is the result of many factors, including environment, genetics, metabolism (the way your body changes food into energy), eating habits, and more. You can’t change some factors, such as genetics. But you can change the habits that lead to being overweight.
So far, drugs have not been very effective at treating obesity. Commentary in The Journal of Clinical Investigation notes that “Several pharmacologic therapies have attempted to address the growing obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, the majority of these therapies have been associated with side effects that many would deem intolerable. Drugs that target pathways in metabolic tissues, such as adipocytes, liver, and skeletal muscle, show promise, but none have been clinically developed to date.”1
That’s one reason why researchers are becoming excited about the results they are seeing with cannabis, especially cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-intoxicating component of cannabis.
A new study published in June of 2018 in Phytotherapy Research demonstrates that a low dose of CBD reduces fat accumulation in in vitro mouse fat cells. When CBD was tested in comparison to two anti-diabetes drugs, rosiglitzone and metformin, CBD was superior at protecting mitochondria, the “power stations” in your cells. It was also better at reversing insulin resistance in cells. The researchers concluded that CBD has anti-obesity properties and “could potentially support the treatment of obesity-related insulin resistance.”2
A 2016 study published in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry finds that CBD plays a role in both “fat browning” and lipolysis. Fat browning is a process by which the kind of fat that stores energy in your body is converted to the kind of fat that burns energy, thus leading to weight loss. Lipolysis is the breakdown of fats in your body.
The study was conducting using adipocytes, or fat cells, derived from mice, which means there is a chance that results may not be the same in humans. However, the researchers concluded that
CBD may be explored as a potentially promising therapeutic agent for the prevention of obesity.3
A second study, this one published in 2015 in the Journal of Hepatology, found that CBD increases lipid (fatty acid) metabolism and helps prevent development of fatty liver. The results were obtained from the study of zebrafish and obese mice. Researchers concluded that
CBD might be used as new therapeutic agents for the pharmacological treatment of obesity.4
The evidence for CBD as a treatment for obesity is still in its early stages. More work needs to be done, especially in regards to human trials, but these studies show a promising first step that will hopefully inspire further investigation.