To briefly review, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of specialized fatty acid-based signaling chemicals (think “keys”), their receptors (think “locks”), and the metabolic enzymes that produce and break them down. These endocannabinoid chemical signals act on similar brain and immune cell receptors (CB1 and CB2) using the active compounds found in cannabis – cannabidiol (CBD), and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD is a non-intoxicating phytocannabinoid with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anxiolytic, anti-psychotic, anti-tumor, and anti-emetic properties. As far as natural products go, it’s a home run. Now if it could just help Americans lose a few pounds…
How Does CBD Impact Metabolism Through “Fat Browning?”
In a newly published study in the scientific journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, Korean researchers studied the effects of CBD administration on preadipocytes (immature fat cells) to explore potential benefits on the treatment and prevention of obesity. Remarkably, CBD was found to do the following:
- Stimulate genes and proteins that enhance the breakdown and oxidation of fat
- Increase the number and activity of mitochondria (which increases the body’s ability to burn calories)
- Decrease the expression of proteins involved in lipogenesis (fat cell generation)
Collectively, these results stem from the ability of CBD to induce “fat browning” – that is, converting what is normally white-colored fat tissue (WAT-white adipose tissue) that stores energy to beige-colored fat tissue (BAT-brown and beige adipose tissue) that burns it. Previous studies have shown that boosting beige-colored fat in animals improves their glucose tolerance, making them more resistant to diabetes and various blood lipid abnormalities.
How to Avoid Metabolic Dysfunction Using CBD
Interestingly, over-activation of the endocannabinoid system, primarily via CB1 receptor activation, contributes to increased abdominal obesity (i.e., fat gain along the midsection), glucose uptake into adipocytes (fat cells), and insulin resistance in muscle tissue.
This “metabolic dysfunction” sets up a vicious cycle whereby further insulin resistance in muscles and the liver increases abdominal obesity and further CB1 over-activation, resulting in greater food-seeking behavior, increased appetite, and increased body fat gain.
Another study published in 2012 by Farrimond et al. examining the effects of different phytocannabinoids, such as cannabinol (CBN) and CBD, on feeding patterns in rats supports the theory that different cannabinoids modulate CB1 receptors and enhance appetite and metabolism with opposing effects.
This study demonstrated that cannabinol increased food intake and body weight gain, while CBD decreased food consumption and weight gain. If your guess is that in this study CBD was also working by “tanning” WAT to BAT, then you are likely spot on.
Interested in other ways to increase your beige-colored fat? Try cold exposure and exercise – or better yet, exercise in the cold while supplementing with CBD.
Article Reference: Leafly
Parray HA and JW Yun. Cannabidiol promotes browning in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Mol Cell Biochem (2016) 416:131–139.
Kim SH and J Plutzky. Brown fat burning for the treatment of obesity and related metabolic disorders. Diabetes Metab J. 2016 Feb; 40(1): 12–21.
Farrimond JA, Whalley BJ, Williams CM. Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Sep;223(1):117-29.
Di Marzo V. The endocannabinoid system in obesity and type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia. 2008 Aug;51(8):1356-67.
Romero-Zerbo SY, Bermúdez-Silva FJ. Cannabinoids, eating behaviour, and energy homeostasis. Drug Test Anal. 2014 Jan-Feb;6(1-2):52-8.
Després JP. The endocannabinoid system: a new target for the regulation of energy balance and metabolism. Crit Pathw Cardiol. 2007 Jun;6(2):46-50.