Currently being overweight and obese is categorized as the fifth leading risk for worldwide mortality. Annually, at least 2.8 million people die due to being overweight or obese. Unfortunately, being overweight or obese often plays havoc on one’s well-being and quality of life, especially due to the plethora of health risks and complications that can occur as a result of these diagnoses.
According to The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), 160 million Americans are overweight, including 30% of children under the age of 20. According to the World Health Organization, obesity has almost doubled over the last three decades. Then, in America, obesity has tripled in children since the 1970s, and it continues to increase. Based on report estimates by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, one in five children of standard school-age are obese.
The Week found that the average American adult weighed 15 more pounds than two decades ago, and researchers have been studying American’s obesity epidemic at a rising rate.
Specifically, in 2011, more than 40 million children younger than five years old were overweight. There are various traditional treatment options that help combat obesity, however, cannabis and different cannabinoids like Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) have shown to be very useful in helping treat obesity and its symptoms.
What to Know About Obesity & The Complications It Can Cause
In general, obesity is much more than just being overweight. Obesity means than an individual’s body fat substantially surpasses the amount of body fat that’s considered healthy. Whereas, being overweight refers to a person who weighs more than the ideal weight for their age and height.
Some health issues and negative complications that can occur from being obese include the following: depression, anxiety, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and the incapability of participating in different physical activities. There’s also a higher chance that obese individuals could be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, different forms of arthritis, ischemic heart disease, and various cardiovascular issues.
In most cases, the main cause of being obese consists of an energy imbalance regarding calorie intake and calories used. There has also been a rise in physical inactivity, which is mostly attributable to sedentary lifestyles. Thus, two main causes of obesity include overeating and little to no physical activity.
Other causes include genetics, medications, and various psychological factors. However, certain variables can contribute to obesity including one’s metabolism, lack of sleep duration, and community/neighborhood resources or lack thereof. Additionally, different psychological factors can trigger individuals to become emotional eaters. It’s also common for feelings of anger, sadness, and stress to result in binge-eating, which eventually leads to varying levels of weight gain, especially when one isn’t physically active.
Research on American Obesity
The National Institutes of Health was correlating restriction with obesity over a decade ago, finding:
“(Animals) given intermittent access to sugary food ate less of their normal food when the sweet food wasn’t available, and they overate the sweet food when it was available again. The scientists hypothesized that the brain’s stress system might be behind the behavior.”
The Boston University team tested drugs that block signaling for stress, showcasing the power of food addiction. A partner of the study, Dr. Eric Zorrilla at the Scripps Research Institute explained that stress often leads to overeating. “Our findings suggest that intermittently eating sweet food changes the brain’s stress system so that you might feel stressed…In other words, you might be self-medicating stress-like symptoms of abstinence with that piece of the pie.”
And are Americans stressed? Absolutely. The American Psychological Association found that stress levels were rising due to political and economic tensions. The Association reports that “nearly half of Americans” (45%) are lying awake at night in the past month due to stressful thoughts. And more surprising, the survey found that stress was growing amongst individuals of almost every class.
“The surveys revealed a significant increase in the percentage of Americans who had experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month, from 71 percent in 2016 to 75 percent in 2017. Of the symptoms reported, around one-third of adults reported experiencing feeling nervous or anxious (36 percent), irritability or anger (35 percent), and fatigue (34 percent) due to their stress.“
With stress-eating causing one facet of the overeating epidemic, more Americans are at risk of the damaging effects caused by what they put in their bodies. However, a recent study found damning evidence that the very food Americans are eating also has a hand in deteriorating their health. A 2019 study featured in Cell Metabolism found:
“Increased availability and consumption of ultra-processed foods have been associated with rising obesity prevalence, but scientists have not yet demonstrated that ultra-processed food causes obesity or adverse health outcomes. Researchers at the NIH investigated whether people ate more calories when exposed to a diet composed of ultra-processed foods compared with a diet composed of unprocessed foods. Despite the ultra-processed and unprocessed diets being matched for daily presented calories, sugar, fat, fiber, and macronutrients, people consumed more calories when exposed to the ultra-processed diet as compared to the unprocessed diet. Furthermore, people gained weight on the ultra-processed diet and lost weight on the unprocessed diet. Limiting consumption of ultra-processed food may be an effective strategy for obesity prevention and treatment.”
In simple terms, diets with more ultra-processed food (high-sodium meats, high-fat milk) were correlated with weight gain, while those who ate unprocessed food (whole fruits, skim milk) tended to lose weight in the study.
While medications, lifestyle, and other important elements play a role in weight gain that leads to over-eating, research is showcasing Americans are at a higher risk for weight-related health effects, such as heart disease, stroke, and mortality.
The Role of Cannabis in Weight Management
Since nearly 1 in every 3 adults are considered obese, and 1 in every 13 adults are considered unhealthily obese, it’s suggested to make certain changes and implement different forms of treatment. Common treatment options that are available include the following: diet changes and healthy eating habits, the incorporation of more exercise and physical activities, the consumption of bariatric medications, and undergoing bariatric surgery, which is normally the last resort.
Aside from these treatment options, it has been discovered that cannabis and several of its valuable cannabinoids can help alleviate many symptoms caused by obesity while also helping obese individuals improve their quality of life and get back on a healthy path. One cannabinoid that’s extremely beneficial for combatting obesity is THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin), which possesses appetite-suppressing properties. THCV also acts as an antagonist of the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Therefore, THCV can block THC, which results in users not experiencing appetite boosts or munchies.
Additionally, Cannabidiol (CBD) has been found to help regulate one’s appetite. Due to cannabis’s vast medicinal and therapeutic properties though, this plant can help alleviate many symptoms of obesity causes such as anxiety, depression, joint, muscle, and back pain, self-esteem and confidence issues, and binge-eating. Besides cannabis itself, certain terpenes play a role in suppressing one’s appetite. The main one known for its appetite-suppressing properties is Humulene.
Cannabinoids and their receptors (CB1 and CB2) are a part of each human body. Found in the brain and central nervous system, cannabinoid receptors have been studied wildly for the role they play in pain, irritability, and overall health. Interestingly, studies have found that individuals that are overweight tend to have more CB1 receptors in fatty tissue. Researchers and scientists have been looking into the link between CB1 receptors and obesity for decades.
In people with obesity, however, CB1 receptors become more widespread, especially in fatty tissue. Because of this, researchers believe that there may be a link between the activation of the CB1 receptors and obesity. A study in 2004 found that mice given a diet similar to what would be found in the wild with the simulation of CB1 receptors led to mice being leaner, while a higher-fat diet led to increased obesity. Interestingly, they found that diet-induced obesity and stimulation of CB1 receptors went hand-in-hand, almost like cannabis intake leads to the “munchies.”
CBD and THC alert the body to activate or block certain CB1 or CB2 receptors. While THC can lead to overeating while being high, it has other effects for those trying to gain an appetite back after surgery or long-term illness as the drug can trigger feelings of hunger. The Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior found that partaking in cannabis caused individuals to crave food more frequently and in smaller amounts, albeit with a delay.
A new term has come to light called, “micro-dosing,” which scientists coined after realizing that certain drugs could have an effect on mood, appetite, and more. An October 2019 study looked into the effect of micro-dosing as it pertained to CB1 receptors in certain individuals. It further studied the understanding of genetics and CB receptors to see how cannabis could play a role in issues like obesity and anxiety.
Interestingly, CBD has been linked to appetite suppression. While THC ignites CB1 receptors in many cases, CBD can help calm the appetite, controlling obesity by blocking the receptor. Research around CBD and the body has also found that CBD plays a role in how the body stores and converts fat. In 2016, researchers found fats are stored and converted differently when CBD is introduced to the body. CBD has also been shown to increase cell changes (from white to brown cells,) helping to burn fat.
A September 2018 study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Science, explained that the “Browning” process could lead the way for other research on CBD-related weight loss. The study also cited that Orlistat, a medication is given to children who experience obesity had side effects like “vitamin deficiency, pancreatitis, nephrotoxicity and hepatotoxicity,” creating a risk in treating obesity. CBD has none of those risks.
Optimal Cannabis Strains & Consumption Methods to Utilize When Combating Obesity
Moreover, it’s essential for obese individuals to consume the right cannabis strains to reap the benefits they need. In particular, cannabis strains that are high in THCV, CBD, and Humulene are ideal.
Generally, most Sativa dominant strains possess higher levels of THCV than other strains. Although there are various cannabis consumption methods available like oral ingestion, inhalation, sublingual administration, topical administration, and transdermal usage, it’s up to the individual to decide which one works best for them.
Overall, due to the growing prevalence of obesity in the U.S. and around the world, it’s important to adopt healthy habits and try different treatment options like cannabis usage to combat obesity and/or to prevent obesity. More research must be conducted on THCV and its medicinal benefits, especially its appetite-suppressing properties. However, obese individuals could certainly give cannabis a chance and discover the impact high amounts of THCV, CBD, and/or Humulene can have on their quality of life.
While new studies are starting yearly, CBD is starting to gain respect as an option for those looking at appetite suppression and may offer benefits that can lead to weight management. As with any introduction of a new drug or treatment, its important care teams are involved, especially when CBD or THC is introduced to other medications. Whether CBD or THC could play a role in eliminating America’s obesity epidemic is still being uncovered. However, so much more research is needed.
Further about Cannabis Health:
- Blood Cancers, Chemotherapy, and Cannabis
- CBD Medicine May Help Ease Another Form of Seizure
- CBD might help you cut back on drinking alcohol and reduce its damaging effects, study says
- Study Finds CBD Effective in Treating Heroin Addiction
- How Can Cannabis Help in Treating Anxiety?
- New Mexico Is Considering to Use Medical Cannabis for Ailing Household Pets