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Research shows CBD to be beneficial for the human body in many ways, and some in the business even tout its positive effects on our metabolism. But does CBD really boost metabolism like the rumors say? Can it help with weight loss? Are there any adverse effects?
More research is still needed to be fully conclusive, but here’s what we know and what the latest studies tell us.
Direct effects on cannabinoid receptors and energy balance
Cannabinoids are, as one study calls them, “lipid messengers,” meaning they interact well with and are transported through lipids in our bodies’ cells. This is one reason why oils and tinctures are the most common ways to take CBD: It amplifies CBD’s bioavailability to link it to a fat when we ingest it.
- CB1 receptor-induced metabolic changes
As it turns out, one of the primary functions of our bodies’ CB1 receptors is maintaining energy balance and homeostasis. Thus, cannabinoids inherently work with the neurotransmitters that control our feeding patterns and overall metabolic rates. Adding phytocannabinoids to the body’s normal endocannabinoid mix, therefore, could have a definite impact on both food intake and metabolism as the CBD—and the resulting increased cannabinoid presence overall—impacts those receptors.
- CB2 receptor-influenced weight loss
A few additional studies conducted on mice have determined that CB2 receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system have an anti-obesity effect by increasing lipid metabolism and helping to modulate energy homeostasis, causing reduced food intake. In a 2011 study, male rats were injected with CBD at 2.5 and 5mg/kg/day for 14 consecutive days, with body weight measurements conducted throughout the period. Both doses were found to produce weight loss in the mice by their activation of the CB2 receptor AM360. It is important to note that the rats were injected with CBD, which is not a method used for CBD ingestion and consumption in humans, so the effects could be different or more pronounced in humans when consuming CBD through typical means.
- Converting bad fats to good fats
More conclusive direct evidence was discovered in 2016 by a group of Korean researchers who were studying the body’s conversion of white fat to brown fat, a process called “fat browning”. To explain, there are two types of fat: white fat, which stores energy while providing insulation for organs, and brown fat, which actively burns calories to produce body heat when you exercise, get enough sleep, and get exposed to the cold. White fat is more closely linked to conditions of obesity and chronic illness, like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, while brown fat tends to be found in greater proportions in healthier individuals.
Well, our bodies can convert white fat into brown fat, and in the researchers’ study, as published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, they found that CBD promoted that conversion in three different ways: (1) by enhancing the expression of brown fat-specific marker genes and proteins that speed up the breakdown of fat cells, (2) by ramping up the activity of mitochondria in our cells, which induces greater calorie-burn, and (3) by limiting the protein expression of proteins that promote fat cell creation. Essentially, CBD could help in the “browning” of white fat cells (a.k.a. adipocytes), increase body heat production (a.k.a. thermogenesis), and ultimately, reduce the production of more fats.
There are numerous indirect ways CBD could influence metabolism that we should consider, too. To start, we know that our metabolism increases when we exercise and when we have more muscle mass. Exercise itself boosts our metabolism by burning kilojoules at a faster rate, and the increased muscle mass we gain from exercise uses more energy to function normally than fat does. So, clearly, exercise is a key ingredient in determining or changing one’s metabolic rate. Where does CBD come in then?
- Better sleep
CBD can influence many things that affect energy levels for the better. For one thing, CBD has been shown to help regulate our sleep/wake cycles, allowing us to get enough sleep more consistently. When you get enough sleep, you have more energy to begin with, which encourages more physical activity, thereby having the potential to increase your metabolism. Additionally, remember the brown fat vs. white fat situation described above? Well, your body naturally converts white fat to brown fat while sleeping. So, it follows that if you get more adequate sleep (thank you, CBD), your body can do more to convert white fat to brown fat as it should.
- Less pain
CBD also helps reduce pain and inflammation. As the inverse of the sleep equation, when you feel less pain and inflammation, you’re more likely to exercise and move your body; thus, you’re more likely to increase your metabolism with that movement.
- No stress
Similarly, CBD has been shown to have a significant anxiolytic effect, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. One part of that effect comes from CBD stopping the breakdown of what’s known as the “bliss molecule,” anandamide. As you might infer, anandamide gives you a feel-good feeling, so when your body is told to not break it down, the molecule stays in your system for longer, which not only allows you to feel “blissful” for longer but also boosts your brain power and energy. Again, it’s the case that when we feel good, we’re more likely to exercise and eat well, meaning we’re also more likely to boost our metabolism.
Whether by direct influence on our CB1 and CB2 receptors, or by compounded influence through improving our sleep, reducing pain, and lessening stress and anxiety, CBD has so far shown itself to be a near surefire aid in boosting metabolism and further regulating our energy.