Over the years, using Cannabis sativa has come to be associated with unreasonable hunger. Even though cannabis users are significantly less likely to become obese, the overwhelming craving for food that many people experience after ingesting THC has become a pop-culture meme and a seemingly axiomatic truth of the cannabis experience.
Whether or not THC actually makes you hungrier than normal, however, CBD is a unique cannabinoid with effects that differ widely from those of its intoxicating cousin. Just because an effect holds true for THC doesn’t mean it also applies to CBD, and in this guide, we’ll provide you with all the evidence currently available on the relationship between CBD and hunger. We’ll also cover the details regarding CBD and weight loss—read on to become an expert on this fascinating subject.
Does CBD increase your appetite?
First, what exactly is appetite? Your digestive system is designed to send signals to your brain when it is time to consume food, and when these signals generate a psychological feeling that you should eat soon, you’ve developed an appetite.
Appetite is different from hunger, which is a feeling that is generated by the absence of food in your digestive tract. As a result, you can have a powerful appetite for food even when you aren’t actually hungry, which is the type of appetite that is commonly associated with cannabis use.
With this definition of appetite in mind, let’s explore some of the available evidence regarding the ability of CBD to make you feel like eating food. In contrast to what you might expect, all available pre-clinical studies indicate that CBD reduces your appetite, which makes it remarkably different from most cannabinoids.
Studies on CBD and appetite
For instance, a two-week animal study found that CBD reduced body weight, and the researchers further found that higher concentrations of CBD offered the most profound weight loss effects. Another study found that CBD reduced food intake while both cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) increased food intake.
While we still don’t know enough about CBD to draw any firm conclusions, limited research suggests that the effects of CBD at the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors could be responsible for the weight loss and reduced food intake effects observed in these studies. Other cannabinoids, such as THC, appear to stimulate the cannabinoid receptors, but CBD appears to reduce the receptivity of the CB1 and CB2 receptors to phytocannabinoids like THC and endocannabinoids like anandamide.
By reducing activity at the cannabinoid receptors, CBD may theoretically block the influence of appetite-inducing cannabinoids and cannabinoid-like endogenous compounds. We look forward to further research, including clinical studies, that may shed more light on this subject.
CBD and fat cell “browning”
An animal study from 2016 may point us in the right direction as we uncover the relationship between CBD and appetite. In this study, researchers observed that CBD promoted the conversion of white fat into brown fat, which is generally an indicator of healthy weight in humans.
White fat is the most common type of fat, and it is used to store energy in the body and cushion your organs. An overabundance of white fat, however, can lead to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, which is why it’s healthy to keep your ratio of brown fat to white fat high.
Your body naturally converts white fat into brown fat during exercise and while you sleep, but the facilitators of this lone animal study observed an increase in the expression of genes and proteins that promote brown fat generation after the administration of CBD. While these results don’t directly bear on the relationship between CBD and hunger, they may help explain the apparent correlation between CBD and reduced food intake and decreased body weight.
Does CBD affect your metabolism?
In addition to being related to appetite, the CB1 and CB2 receptors in your brain are also involved in metabolism. When your metabolism is high, you tend to lose weight, and when your metabolism is low, you tend to gain weight.
Since CBD appears to suppress the activity of the cannabinoid receptors, this cannabinoid could impact your metabolism. Research indicates that activation of the CB1 and CB2 increases hunger and reduces metabolism while “blockade of CB1 suppresses hunger and induces hypophagia [reduced food intake].”
Having a high metabolism can sometimes make you eat more because your body processes nutrients more quickly. In almost every case, however, boosting your metabolism reduces feelings of hunger and contributes to weight loss. Having a slow metabolism, on the other hand, makes you hungry more frequently while making it harder for you to lose weight.
Does CBD affect weight loss?
There isn’t yet enough evidence to definitively declare that CBD affects weight loss in either way. While the studies we’ve covered so far seem to indicate that CBD reduces appetite by blockading the CB1 and CB2 receptors, there are plenty of data that conflict with this assumption.
For instance, a 2015 scientific survey of parents of children who used CBD for epilepsy found that this cannabinoid significantly increased appetite in 30% of children. Another study of children using CBD for epilepsy found that CBD could either increase or decrease appetite. Plus, around 6% of CBD users report increased hunger as a side effect of this cannabinoid, muddying the waters regarding CBD’s potential usefulness for weight loss.
While CBD might reduce your appetite, it may also have opposite results. We need to learn more about this cannabinoid before we can make any firm conclusions regarding its usefulness for weight loss.
Hunger differences between CBD and THC
While CBD suppresses the activity of the CB1 and CB2 receptors, THC is considered to be one of the most potent cannabinoid receptor agonists, meaning that it increases the activity of the CB1 and CB2 receptors more than practically any other substance. Based on simple brain chemistry, therefore, it would be natural to assume that THC might increase hunger, reduce metabolism, and lead to weight gain.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this guide, however, research indicates that THC users are less likely to become obese than people who do not use cannabis. These data are the result of a simple survey of 50,000 individuals, so they do not provide any information on the potential mechanisms underlying this observed trend. At the same time, however, the available evidence indicates that neither CBD nor THC makes you hungry enough to become obese.
To shed further light on this subject, researchers recently conducted a clinical study that investigated the potential relationship between THC use and increased hunger-related hormones. This study found that THC-rich cannabis did, in fact, increase blood concentrations of insulin, ghrelin, and other hormones that are related to appetite and hunger, providing the first set of clinical evidence suggesting a relationship between THC use and increased hunger.
No similar clinical studies have been conducted into the potential relationships between CBD and hunger hormones, but based on abundant anecdotal evidence alone, it’s clear that there are significant differences between CBD and THC when it comes to hunger. Regardless of its underlying biochemical mechanisms, increased hunger is one of the most commonly reported side effects of THC use, but even though CBD has become nearly as popular as THC over the last few years, reports of CBD causing unreasonable hunger are far less common. If you’re concerned that using CBD could make you unreasonably hungry, you can take comfort in the fact that thousands of CBD users have successfully enjoyed this cannabinoid without emptying their fridges overnight.
Tips for using CBD to maintain a healthy appetite
Whether or not CBD significantly impacts your appetite, there are plenty of simple choices you can make that will help you gain and maintain a healthy appetite. Manifesting a balanced relationship between the rate at which you consume food and the rate that your body uses energy is the key to maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding common chronic conditions, so try these three tips if you’re keen on optimizing your appetite:
If you feel like you’re eating too much, sticking to a regular exercise regimen will help you burn calories and lose weight. If you aren’t eating enough to maintain your metabolism and keep your body at a healthy weight, exercise can also help since moving your body releases endorphins that stimulate appetite.
When you exercise to maintain a healthy appetite, you don’t need to go all-out. Just find a low-impact, daily exercise regimen and stick to it for the best results.
Add omega fatty acids
Despite their somewhat misleading name, omega fatty acids help you burn fat instead of making you fatter. Omega-3 fatty acid is the most useful substance within this group when your goal is to shed as many pounds as possible, and this fatty acid also appears to help you maintain a healthy metabolism. Incidentally, hemp seed oil is a great source of both omega-3 fatty acid and plant protein, which can both help you shed fat, build muscle, and remain healthy.
Schedule your meals
If you’re wondering if CBD increases hunger because you’re afraid you’ll eat more, setting up a daily meal routine is one way to avoid excessive snacking. If you eat at the same intervals every day, you’ll be less likely to get hungry at odd times whether you use CBD or not.
CBD and hunger: the bottom line
While there’s still a lot we need to learn about CBD and its relationship with hunger, we think it's safe to say that CBD is unlikely to make you excessively hungry based on the available evidence. It’s even unclear whether there’s any significant biochemical underpinning to the “munchies” phenomenon associated with THC, so any potential connection between CBD and increased appetite is much more likely to be based on pop culture misconceptions than hard science.
Everything we do know about CBD, on the other hand, indicates that this cannabinoid should be studied further for its potential relationship with healthy metabolism and appetite. In summation, don’t bother to lock up all the chips and cookies the next time you order CBD flower or another type of CBD product.