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Can CBD Help Eating Disorders (Anorexia, Cachexia, Obesity)

November 24, 2020

cannabinoids and eating disorders anorexia obesity

A variety of diseases involving extreme weight loss and gain, including obesity related to binge eating, have similar psychological and biological factors, and can deteriorate mental health leading to depression if left untreated. [1] Recent evidence has provided a link between deficits in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of people with eating disorders, and some research has shown promise in the use of cannabinoids like CBD to treat them.

Can CBD help eating?

Fascinatingly, cannabis rich in CBD has been utilized historically to both suppress and increase appetite. Animal and human research indicates that CB1 receptor agonists relate to appetite enhancement and an increase in the perceived reward value of food, while CB1 antagonists have been found to decrease food consumption. This has resulted in clinical development of several pharmaceutical drug treatments that adjust the endocannabinoid system in eating disorder patients, with mixed success. [2]

Can CBD help suppress appetite?

The science is currently limited and does suggest that some cannabinoids like THC have a tendency to increase food consumption, whereas others like CBD reduce it. [3] This is in addition to the fact that cannabinoids can occasionally affect people in opposite ways, which supports the idea that these compounds can adjust to a variety of different body chemistries to facilitate balance.

In a 2006 study, the relationship between CBD and what is considered as “brown fat”, the form of fat cell that burns calories in order to generate heat, rather than store them. The research tended to suggest that CBD could promote brown fat and increase lipid metabolism (fat burning). As such, the effects of CBD oil could be examined as a promising form of therapeutic agent in the prevention of obesity. [4]

On the other side of the coin, anorexia and cachexia involve physical wasting and malnutrition affecting the brain and other vital bodily organs. Although anorexia is both psychological and biological in nature, cachexia accompanies cancer, pulmonary disease, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, severe neurological diseases, heart disease, high blood pressure, heavy metal poisoning, extreme hormonal imbalances, and a compromised immune system. Both conditions are characterized by weight loss, muscle atrophy, weakness, fatigue, and loss of appetite. The research thus far, has confirmed cannabinoids such as CBD can help alleviate cachexia symptoms in many sufferers, and offers treatment of other related conditions also. [5]

Is it safe to ingest CBD

Two studies from 2013 displayed impressive results utilizing cannabinoids in anorexia patients. THC activates the CB1 receptor, which helps increase appetite. CB1 is also involved with the receptor for ghrelin, a hormone that contributes to an increase in the sensation of hunger. One study utilized a synthetic cannabinoid, dronabinol, which led to small but significant weight gain in anorexia nervosa patients, [6] and another that discovered cannabis compounds could help anorexia-stricken mice recover and get back to a healthy weight. [7]

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Prior to making changes to your lifestyle or treatment plan for a disease or condition, consult your doctor.

Is it safe to ingest CBD?

It is recommended that those wishing to use cannabidiol (CBD) or medicinal cannabis utilize the help of a medical professional who has experience with cannabis products like CBD so that the dosage and delivery method can be adjusted. At the same time, those who have taken the time to educate themselves can become their own highly aware health consultants.

In the case of obesity, CBD products with a ratio of 20:1 or higher are generally recommended and consumed as capsules or drops. Strains high in THCV may retard appetite. [8] 

Sativa strains like Sour Diesel are typically the most effective, if THC can be tolerated, to stimulate appetite in cachexia and anorexic patients, but the dose and strains need to be experimented with based on the individual for best results. Typically, a micro dose of THC (around 2.5 mg) can assist with a low appetite with very low side effects. Someone without experience with THC should use caution and titrate slowly up to higher doses. A 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC can be utilized when there’s too much psychoactivity, due to CBD’s ability to neutralize the psychoactive effects of THC. CBG is another cannabinoid currently being studied for its ability to stimulate appetite, so strains high in this compound may be of help. As always, start with a micro dose of CBD or any cannabis strain to test for sensitivity and go up as needed before going to the next, until symptoms subside. The micro to standard dose is typically the start point for eating disorders.

For instant effects on appetite, smoked or vaporized cannabis can be effective in rapidly increasing or decreasing the desire for food (depending on the individual and strain for cannabis). Vaporizing or smoking lasts between one and three hours, whereas most ingestible products take longer to take effect, but last six to eight hours. The most effective vaporizers use a cartridge filled with CO2 concentrate, which can be found in a variety of ratios of CBD to THC. Tinctures or sprays taken sublingually can have a rapid onset and last longer than the inhaled products. 

Can CBD help eating

What does CBD do when you eat it?

In an article by Harvard University, it was noted that CBD had "moderate proof" in its ability to improve pain, sleep disorders, muscle spasticity related to multiple sclerosis and anxiety. The most common benefit when you eat CBD oil is typically in the relief of pain, anxiety and sleep disorders, but there's a growing list of symptoms cannabidiol can assist with.

The Cannabis Health Index is a scoring system based on the best body of evidence found in the medical literature (not just for CBD, but all cannabis). Based on the current studies, cachexia and anorexia rates in the possible-to-probable range of efficacy. For obesity, it rates as likely-probable.

There can also be found several studies relating to the possibility of gene mutations in the endocannabinoid system rendering bearers more susceptible to eating disorders such as anorexia. In a 2009 study, researchers found that a single nucleotide change in the gene that encodes for the expression of the CB1 receptor, as well as a second polymorphism in a gene controlling production of the anandamide-degradation molecule FAAH, may contribute to a biological sensitivity to anorexia and bulimia nervosa. [9]

The Endocannabinoid System

The ECS is a molecular system inside all mammals and is vital to the healthy balanced functioning of every major organ and system inside the body. When the ECS becomes overwhelmed due to higher levels of stressors placed upon it, it can become dysfunctional, leading to chronic states of illness and commonly known disorders and diseases. As mentioned, stress is one of the major factors that affects the ECS. What brings on chronic stress? Environmental factors related to infancy and childhood, poor diet, smoking, alcohol use, and so on. Anything that leads to an overwhelming amount of stress in the body. Luckily, we can provide a full spectrum of compounds from hemp to help support the ECS and its healthy functioning. When we do this, we can help alleviate the stresses placed upon the ECS, and give it a jump-start if it's been inactive; so it can go to work on restoring balance and order in the body.

For more information, see our articles on Cannabinoids in Diabetes and Weight Loss and CBD and Diabetes.

Most of us know someone affected by an eating disorder, we just may not know it yet. Mental health statistics in New Zealand show around 3.5% of women and 2% of men will experience the condition during their life.

Visit our blog for the latest research surrounding how hemp products work with the ECS to support health and optimal physiological functioning.

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1. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/obesity-eating-disorder-just-anorexia-and-it-s-time-we-started-treating-it-way-a6891166.html
2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251880532_The_Role_of_the_Endocannabinoid_System_in_Eating_Disorders_Neurochemical_and_Behavioural_Preclinical_Evidence
3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22543671/
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27067870/
5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10575285/
6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24105610/
7. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/health-fitness/news/a42398/marijuana-anorexia/
8. https://www.amazon.com/Cannabis-Pharmacy-Practical-Medical-Marijuana-ebook/dp/B01MRGRUNE
9. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1601-183X.2009.00518.x