What The Research Says, Side Effects, And More

What The Research Says, Side Effects, And More

When it comes to weight loss, sustainability is key. Meaning: You want to make changes you can actually implement (such as focusing on eating more protein and veggies) and keep up over time to help you continue to see the results you want. While CBD for weight loss has bubbled up as a topic of conversation in the weight-loss fad realm, it remains pretty unclear if using the stuff fits the “sustainability” bill—or even works, for that matter.

Fans of cannabidiol (aka CBD) swear it can do a huge range of things, from helping with aches and pains to improving your mood. Research into all of that is still ongoing, but with all the claims around the compound, it’s understandable for the conversation to start around using CBD for weight loss.

Of course, just because people are talking about something doesn’t mean that it’s actually legit. So, is there something to using CBD to lose weight or is this all just white noise that will distract you from your ultimate goal? Here’s what doctors—and researc—have to say about using CBD for weight loss.

Meet the experts: Dina Peralta-Reich, MD, is director of New York Weight Wellness Medicine.

Jamie Alan, PhD, is an associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University.

Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, is an instructor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

What exactly is CBD?

CBD has been out there so much that you might have missed the details on what, exactly, this is. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant, says Jamie Alan, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University.

CBD only contains very small amounts of THC, which is the compound in marijuana that will make you high. But CBD won’t actually get you high, Alan says.

It’s important to state this up front: While plenty of people swear CBD can help with a huge range of issues, the U.S. National Library of Medicine says that “there isn’t enough reliable information” to say if CBD helps in a slew of situations.

Right now, data suggest that CBD is likely effective to treat seizure disorders, although there has been a lot of interest, and some data, around its use for pain (more on that in a sec).

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What’s the deal with CBD and weight loss?

CBD is an “item of interest” for weight loss, according to Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, instructor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. “CBD is considered as a potential therapeutic agent due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, neuroprotective, and potential anti-obesity properties,” Dr. Stanford says. “However, we have limited research to speak to its use in humans at this time.”

The reality is, though, “No human study to date has demonstrated the efficacy of CBD in promoting weight loss,” says Dina Peralta-Reich, MD, director of New York Weight Wellness Medicine. But CBD is used a lot to help people with pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders, which can contribute to weight gain, Dr. Peralta-Reich adds. “It’s conceivable that CBD could offer advantages for individuals who tend to engage in emotional eating due to heightened anxiety and stress,” she adds.

The pain management aspect could be something that could help with weight loss if you’re struggling to be active because of chronic pain, Alan adds. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) points to data on cannabis or CBD for pain that suggests it may be helpful. (It’s just not as robust as it is for seizure disorders, for example.)

There may be something to directly link CBD to weight loss, but there’s not a ton to go on right now. An older lab study that looked at animal cells found that CBD could help convert white fat into brown fat, which helps burn calories. But, since this was on animal cells, it’s tough to translate that into a potential impact on humans.

Ultimately, Dr. Peralta-Reich says that “there isn’t substantial medical evidence supporting [CBD’s] role as a dedicated weight loss medication or aid.”

Alan agrees. “CBD has complex mechanisms in the body,” she says. “There is still very active research trying to understand all the effects of CBD in the body.”

How To Choose A Legit CBD Product

Again, there’s no definitive data right now that says CBD will be helpful for weight loss. But if you’re interested in checking it out for whatever reason, Alan recommends buying from a company that’s reputable and has good reviews. If they do third-party testing, even better, she says.

How To Use CBD

Since we don’t have enough research to say for sure, it’s not totally clear how much CBD to take from a weight loss POV. While Alan recommends speaking to your doctor before trying CBD, she says it’s probably good to start with a low dose and see how you feel.

When it comes to pain management, rubbing a CBD-infused cream or lotion into the area that hurts may help, Alan says.

Are there contraindications to using CBD?

There are some possible risks of using CBD (scroll down for those) but there are “no absolute contraindications,” Alan says. That said, she “strongly recommends” talking to your doctor first before you try CBD for anything.

Are there potential downsides to CBD?

Not necessarily, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of things to be aware of when it comes to using CBD. The FDA recommends keeping these in mind:

  • CBD can cause liver injury at high doses.
  • CBD can affect how other drugs you are taking work, potentially causing serious side effects.
  • Use of CBD with alcohol or other drugs that slow brain activity, like those used to treat anxiety, panic, stress, or sleep disorders, increases the risk of sedation and drowsiness, which can lead to injuries.
  • Male reproductive toxicity, or damage to fertility in males or male offspring of females who have been exposed, has been reported in studies of animals exposed to CBD.

What side effects can CBD cause?

The FDA also says that CBD can cause side effects that you might notice, including the following:

  • Feeling drowsy
  • Diarrhea
  • Having a decreased appetite
  • Mood changes, like irritability and agitation

Bottom line: Research on CBD for various physical and psychological ailments and symptoms is still limited and developing. Currently, there isn’t substantial evidence to support CBD for weight loss.

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Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.