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Cannabis and Weight Loss: How CBD and Marijuana affect your weight

Before and After BMI

August 19, 2020

Cannabis and Weight Loss: How CBD and Marijuana affect your weight

At first glance, cannabis use is steeped in decades upon decades of misinformation and assumptions about how consuming the herb can affect your body mass index, and ultimately your weight. Outdated descriptions of lazy “stoners” succumbing to the intense stimulation of their appetites turning everyone into college kids that frequent late-night taco and burger runs associated with the mythology of becoming a zombie hungry for anything, as long as its edible. 

However, with the legalization of Cannabis and other Cannabidiol products such as CBD, proper modern research has scrutinized these associations in an effort to determine where exactly this appetite stimulation comes from. Over the last decade, research studies have been determined to sort out the relationship between Cannabis and the way it affects your weight. The answer, however, is not as simple as historical depiction of Cannabis users snacking on everything in sight until they fall asleep covered in Cheeto dust. The truth, as it usually is, is a whole lot more complicated than that. As it turns out, the amount of cannabis one consumes, as well as the regularity with which one uses the herb has a direct correlation to how your appetite fluctuates while using Cannabis and Cannabidiol. Does Cannabis help weight loss? 

Cannabis and BMI: A complicated relationship

To understand the complicated relationship between Cannabis and weight, we must first discuss a few concepts. Researchers have defined two types of Cannabis users for classification in this arena, Acute Cannabis users (those who sporadically use Cannabidiol based products and have not yet gained a physiological tolerance to the chemicals) and what is known as a Chronic user (those who user Cannabis products more than three times a week for an extended period of time).  Researchers have found that the experience of both weight loss and weight gain is specifically linked to the amount of Cannabis one consumes, but also where the consumers’ weight lies before they begin to partake. 

According to research data, acute users of cannabis and cannabidiols typically do experience an uptick in the stimulation of their appetite, especially in low weight individuals. This somewhat paradoxical finding has many different facets to its existence, from the association and competition between similar psychological reward centers in the brain, all the way to the possibility that Cannabis and Cannabidiols may be a metabolic regulatory substance that seeks to help find balance in the body, affecting lower weight individuals by increasing hunger, while not affecting normal-weight users in the same manner. 

According to an article posted in the medical journal, Innovations in clinical Neuroscience titled ‘Marijuana and Body Weight’, by Randy A. Sansone, MD corresponding author and Lori A. Sansone, MD, “Marijuana and its multiple chemical components (i.e., cannabinoids) as well as substances produced within the body that activate cannabinoid receptors (i.e., endocannabinoids) appear to exert specific influences on the regulation of feeding behavior.” The authors further explain, “In empirical support of this conclusion…(researchers) state that the endocannabinoids are important bio mediators and metabolic regulators in mammalian physiology, with diverse and ubiquitous modulating actions, including the regulation of body weight.” Simply stated, the effects of cannabis on your body, and more specifically your brain chemistry can diversely affect your brain chemistry depending on how it is needed, and how the rest of your physiological systems interact with one another. 

Physiologically speaking, two of the most relevant receptors in your body that interact with cannabis and cannabinoid systems are known as the CB1, and CB2 receptors. These systems, located in the brain and in the immune system respectively, can be both agonized and antagonized to react and bind differently to Cannabis molecules depending on the regularity that these receptors come in contact with the molecules. 


An agonist molecule is one that will bind to specific receptors, causing them to become more active, eventually causing your body to have a physiological response at a cellular level. Basically, when Cannabis is consumed and begins to interact with your body in its early stages, the active molecules that have been introduced to your system will stimulate the activity of those receptors. In this case, the research data shows that agonism of CB receptors will activate and increase ones craving for food as it is associated with the reward system of the body. The agonism of these CB receptors also seems to attract the energy from the increased food ingestion to be stored as fat in adipose tissues in your body, essentially causing weight gain for Acute users.


An Antagonist molecule or drug is the exact opposite of an agonist molecule, in that once the molecule is bonded to the chemical receptor, the antagonist molecule will complete oppose the actions of the agonistic effect on the molecule. Specifically, there is evidence that when the CB receptors have been exposed to cannabis molecules for longer periods of consistent activity by a Chronic user, the receptors will begin to treat cannabis molecules antagonistically, reducing the call for hunger at a molecular level. 

Acute Cannabis Use

Acute Cannabis use can be considered as the sporadic consumption of Cannabis without regularity over a short period of time. According to a recent study which examined how different doses of THC, the active molecule in cannabis affected the CB receptors that control food cravings, low amounts of THC concentrations are directly associated with agonizing the CB receptor, causing an uptake in the amount of hunger one has, regardless of how much food one has already ingested. This expression of the CB receptor will unfortunately cause weight gain if the user does not intentionally fight against the stimulation to follow natural cues.

Chronic Cannabis Use

Chronic Cannabis use is defined as a regular and continual use of cannabis over a longer period. Typically, researchers will use the benchmark of three uses per week over an extended multi-year period.  The chronic use of cannabis, and how it affects weight is where the story of molecules and how these connections are expressed becomes slightly and inexplicably opposed to the effects of Acute cannabis intake. Research shows that once the concentration of THC has grown high enough, the CB receptors are overwhelmed, causing the connection to be Antagonistic. Furthermore, once this connection becomes Antagonistic, the CB receptor will not react to continual stimulation, blocking the effects typically associated with cannabis and hunger. The great mystery about this scenario, is that current research does not yet understand the reasons for this phenomenon, why it works this way, or exactly when the change in the behavior of CB receptors occurs, instead parleying the research into a basis for a deeper understanding of cannabis’ affect on other systems of the body for answers. Scientific findings and other discovered evidence define the experience as an extremely complicated situation that requires more study and evidence, as the study of Cannabis in a controlled setting is still in relative infancy. 

Cannabis, THC, and Physiological Effects on Bodily Functions

Although there is bourgeoning field of the study of THC, marijuana, and CBD’s affect on the physiology of the body is still in relative infancy, there have been some studies that have specifically been conducted on certain systems of the Body. Of particular interest in the realm of weight fluctuation is cannabis’s affect on bariatric surgery, and how it will affect gastric acid, pain amount, and the process of bariatric surgery itself.

In many of these instances, the introduction of THC and other Cannabidiols has a positive affect on the body as it naturally affects many of the systems that contribute to stomach acid and it’s relationship to weight, as well as the mitigation of pain when used in congress with traditional post-surgical Opioid use.  There is some concern amongst the medical community about the possibility of Marijuana abuse, however there are many unknown elements to these possibilities as research is still theoretical in this area.  

In one area of particular importance to surgeons, there is an increased interest on Marijuana and it’s effect on intestinal motility( or the way cells move) , as well as THC’s apparent reduction of typical post-operative issues such as nausea, vomiting, and inflammation decreasing tendencies.

Cannabis and Gastric Acid

Currently, there have been no specific clinical studies on the affect of Marijuana and gastric acid output, however there is evidence that has been compiled from previous studies based on the certain vaccine developmental programs. One study in particular found that volunteers who smoke Cannabis more than two days a week, had a lower gastric acid secretion amount than the control group of non-users.

Typically, in these cases, the active system that secretes gastric acid at an increased rate is inhibited by the agonistic nature of THC and other Cannabinoids.  Furthermore, it was also discovered that these same chemical interactions have a tendency to protect the stomach against pyloric ligation induced ulcers. Essentially, THC activates central cannabinoid receptors which results in gastric mucosa which protects the stomach. Further, these endocannabinoids also provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the mucosa, coating the area and preventing the affects of acid on the gastric system.

Cannabis and its relationship with Opioids

The relationship between Marijuana and other Cannabis and Cannabinoids is a complicated one, both externally, and in the body. According to one study, there is a relationship in which there is a possibility of significantly higher use of Opioids amongst the population of Marijuana users who have received a bariatric procedure. For this group of individuals, the subjective pain score post operation appeared to be lower, although Opioid use was equal or similar to those with higher pain scores. 

It has been discovered that the possibility of a “cross tolerance” or decrease in pain threshold in marijuana users causing an increase in Opioid use. Importantly to note, these findings are specifically linked to pain tolerance, and opioid consumption. There has been no apparent evidence to demonstrate that Marijuana users suffer any complications in post-surgical surveys.

 As with most studies pertaining to Marijuana and medically significant studies are still in their opening phase, and medical professionals call for a deeper study set to better understand this relationship.

Cannabis and Bariatric Surgery

There have been no specific or comprehensive studies specifically linked to the effect that Cannabis and Cannabinoids have on Bariatric Surgery, however, there been many inferences that have been found to be contained in the available literature that has been generated over the past 40 years of the cultural study of Marijuana.

Most cases that have began to show significant data to be further explored in relevance to Bariatric Surgery, state that in a controlled environment that is considered a non-emergency procedure show that Marijuana usage does not contradict or interfere with the surgical outcome to the physiological systems being manipulated. This being said, there are a many factors having to do with the changes in physiology that Cannabis and Cannabidiol exert on the body. 

Preliminary results indicate that currently, there are no differences in the rate of post-operative complications including infection, readmission, bleeding, strongly concluding that Marijuana does not have an impact on 30-day complications of this type of weight loss surgery. 

Due to the relatively long amount of time that Marijuana remains in the fat cells, and how it affects multiple organ systems, there is a high desire for further study and knowledge due to the growing amount of marijuana users as it has become legalized in many communities around The United States. 

Cannabis, CBD, and Weight loss: Unknown knowns.

Understanding the scientific components as to why cannabis and CBD can help you lose weight can only offer a small window into the scientific definitions of why this happens. However, we have yet to discuss how your waistline can BENEFIT from the use of cannabis and cannabidiol in a concentrated and effective way.

Presently, the theory of cannabis use and weight loss in action highlights the affects and influence of THC molecules on CB receptors. 

According to the study, ‘Theoretical Explanation for Reduced Body Mass Index and Obesity Rates in Cannabis Users’ by Thomas M. Clark, Jessica M. JonesAlexis G. HallSara A. Tabner, and Rebecca L. Kmiec, “Any theory explaining mechanistically how Cannabis use causes reduced BMI must consider the paradoxical increase in caloric intake of users. To date, such a theory is lacking and the interactions between Cannabis use and obesity are not well understood. The authors later state, “Proposed explanations for reduced BMI in Cannabis users include substitution of Cannabis for food in brain reward pathways” 

Although the mystery of how Cannabis affects weight loss on a molecular level has been the focus of many studies on the topic, specifically between the THC molecule and the CB receptors and their relation to weight loss, other affects of cannabis and CBD have been theorized about. 

Researchers have published findings that suggest that the sedative effects of large Cannabis doses could sometimes reduce food consumption. These studies observed that there is a definite and measurable relationship between a lowering BMI, and a larger dose of THC. In this study, the side effects of THC use, such as a reduce in alcohol consumption in younger subjects, or a resurgence of physical activity in older users as a result of outlying benefits of cannabis such as pain relief, have an across the board lowering effect on the BMI of users. 

Other Theories suggest that there may be a definite change in the metabolism of the subject, as opposed to changes in caloric intake or the amount of activity one does. These theories rely on the idea that THC may act as an antagonist for additional receptors that are found to be overactive in some obese patients. Theoretically, these explanations solve the question of how, but offer little evidence of why.

Essentially, it is important to understand that the relationship between weight loss and cannabis and cannabidiol is still in the infancy of its exploration. While correlations certainly exist, and the results are measurable and documented, there are still many details and systemic interactions that are not yet understood and require further study to be explained. 

Ultimately, even with the extended effects of cannabis on the endocrine system beginning to be mapped out, there is still no direct answer. One can question, ‘can CBD help me lose weight?’ The answer, is, at this point a strong, and evidence-based “maybe!”. The only definite truth at this time is that there is a positive relationship between cannabis and weight loss and that as the research continues, more answers and methods of positively exploiting this connection will certainly be available.