Quick hit: Cannabis for Weight Loss

Some recent highlights and curiosities from the amazing world of cannabis science and therapeutics.
By Adrian Devitt-Lee On February 11, 2019
Image of doctor measuring BMI

In spite of the munchies, using THC-rich cannabis is associated with lower weight and a smaller risk for Type II diabetes. This is well substantiated by human epidemiology and research. But it naively seems to contradict quite a bit of preclinical research on the role of the endocannabinoid system in metabolism, which has shown that activating the CB1 receptor promotes weight gain and reduces insulin sensitivity. Researchers at Indiana University suggest one explanation in a new paper, based on the fact that the modern western diet incorporates much fewer omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6. Omega-6 fatty acids are precursors to endocannabinoids, and so the imbalance in the Western diet may lead to overactivity at CB1 in metabolic tissues. Heavy or long-term cannabis use could desensitize the CB1 receptor, offsetting the effect of the elevated levels of endocannabinoids from diet. This is a plausible explanation, although other reasons have been proposed as well. According to the scientists, “Once patients become aware that the side effects of medical Cannabis may include weight loss and reduced risk of obesity-associated medical conditions, [the] shift toward medical Cannabis is likely to accelerate. Available data suggests that this will save many lives, not only from reduced rates of obesity-related chronic illness, but also from reduced deaths from pharmaceutical overdose” [emphasis added]. That’s certainly food for thought.

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Adrian Devitt-Lee, a Project CBD contributing writer, is a graduate from Tufts University with a degree in mathematics and chemistry.