EducationCan CBD stimulate appetite?

Can CBD stimulate appetite?

8 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Does CBD increase or stimulate appetite?

Contents

The rise of both medical cannabis and CBD in recent years has sparked a wave of curiosity and enthusiasm for its therapeutic potential, and possible health benefits. However, as with any wellness trend, it’s important to separate the fact from the fiction.

A commonly asked question is whether CBD has the potential to stimulate appetite. In this article, we will delve into the connection between CBD and appetite, considering the distinct factors that influence its effects. By drawing upon scientific research, we aim to provide an informed answer to the question: "Does CBD stimulate appetite?"

The endocannabinoid system and appetite 

To understand how CBD might affect or stimulate appetite, we have to first look at how appetite operates. Our bodies all contain an endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is a complex network of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids. The ECS plays a vital role in maintaining balance and homeostasis within the body, and among its many functions, the ECS regulates appetite – notifying the body it’s hungry, or alternatively, that it’s full.

The endocannabinoids that our bodies produce act as neurotransmitters and send these messages around the body. When cannabinoids like THC and CBD are consumed, they can mimic these endocannabinoid functions and are then able to influence or trigger biological processes and responses that are naturally controlled by the ECS.

One of the most commonly experienced side effects of cannabis consumption is an increase in appetite, and so, the plant has been harnessed for this application for millennia. In a variety of countries around the world, medical cannabis has now been legalised and is being prescribed to patients living with HIV/AIDS, anorexia, cachexia, or cancer to help combat their reduced appetite or weight loss. However, it is important to note that actually, THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid produced by cannabis, is the component believed to be responsible for stimulating appetite – not CBD. 

Does CBD increase appetite? 

Although a boost in appetite is a common effect of cannabis or THC consumption, the same has not been observed with CBD – in fact, the currently available evidence from clinical studies leans towards cannabidiol having appetite-suppressing qualities, or at least the majority of it does.  

A systematic review from 2022 analysed 11 peer-reviewed randomised controlled trials that investigated the effects CBD can have on hunger, appetite, or weight loss when consumed. The majority of studies in this cohort reported individuals experienced a reduced appetite or weight loss when taking CBD. 

Only one trial showed an opposing result, and several noted that there were no significant differences in appetite when CBD was introduced.  Ultimately, the researchers concluded that CBD might have anorexigenic effects, meaning it can reduce appetite – not stimulate appetite. 

This has made CBD an interesting candidate for tackling binge eating or the development of obesity, and in 2019 a team of researchers discovered evidence that suggests CBD has the ability to reduce the motivations and food rewards surrounding sweetened foods. 

In this study, researchers noted that mice and rats showed a significant and dose-dependent reduction in the amount of sucrose solution that they self-administered when they had consumed CBD, indicating CBD can reduce the reward or craving placed upon a particular food.

But that is not where the story ends. There is some research that refutes the claim of CBD being an appetite suppressant and highlights how it may stimulate appetite for a minority of individuals. .

In a comprehensive study conducted by researchers, a total of 117 parents whose children were undergoing CBD treatment for epilepsy symptoms were interviewed. The results revealed that the majority of parents reported a significant reduction in their children's epilepsy symptoms. However, an interesting finding emerged, as approximately 30% of the parents mentioned that the use of CBD oil had a noticeable impact on increasing their children's appetite.

Furthermore, an extensive review conducted on a sample size of 2,409 individuals who regularly use CBD revealed that approximately 6.35% of them reported a notable increase in appetite as a potential side effect. This finding emphasises the multifaceted impact that CBD can have on individuals and highlights the importance of understanding its effects on hunger regulation.

So, with all that laid out, what's the verdict?

Overall, it appears that CBD does not have a direct effect on stimulating appetite. In fact, evidence suggests it may have an appetite-suppressing quality for the majority of individuals.

However, as with any substance or medication, there will be variations in how individuals respond and react to CBD – so some may experience an increase in appetite while others do not. Thanks to the current wave of scientific research into medical cannabis, we are gaining a better understanding of how CBD interacts with the body and its impact on various bodily functions, including appetite regulation. Hopefully, we will have a clearer answer to this question in the near future.

Factors that influence CBD's effect on appetite 

Since every individual is unique, and our bodies respond differently to external stimuli, a variety of factors can influence how CBD affects our appetite. These include:

  • Personal factors: body weight, height, age, health history and the use of other medications can all impact how CBD influences the body, and subsequently, appetite. 
  • Hormones: Hormonal functions can have a profound impact on a person’s appetite. For example, the hormone Peptide YY causes you to feel full, and its presence within the body tends to increase with age, leading to many older individuals experiencing a reduced appetite or suffering from unintended weight loss.
  • Lifestyle factors: Lifestyle choices such as exercise, dietary habits and blood sugar levels can impact appetite and CBD’s interaction with these factors can also vary. 
  • Product profile: The type, strength, dose, and composition of the CBD product being administered all influence the effects it can have on a body. Whole plant, full spectrum, or broad-spectrum CBD products may have differing effects on appetite due to their different make-ups.

Although CBD holds promise in various therapeutic areas, it is important to acknowledge that CBD does have potential risks and side effects associated. Individuals considering CBD should be aware that it can interact with certain medications, affecting their efficacy or potentially leading to unwanted adverse reactions. 

Additionally, some people may experience side effects such as dry mouth, dizziness, diarrhoea, or fatigue when taking CBD. CBD products also vary in quality and purity, making it difficult to establish a clear trend and raises significant concerns about treatment continuity, which is why it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your wellness routine. 

Conclusion

In the search to discover whether CBD increases appetite, the evidence appears to suggest otherwise. While THC is known for its appetite-stimulating properties, CBD seems to have the opposite effect, potentially suppressing or reducing appetite. With that said, there is also research suggesting that CBD may increase appetite for a minority of individuals, and evidence does show that it can have potential in treating or managing some of the symptoms or side effects that are associated with having a reduced appetite.

There is a surplus of data that proposes CBD has the ability to interact with serotonin receptors, which can in turn relieve anxiety and boost a person’s mood, as well as improving sleep quality, and often focus or concentration levels. So, CBD could still be a valuable and useful component in the daily routine of someone suffering with a reduced appetite. 

Nevertheless, remember that your health is a priority, and so addressing appetite concerns should be done in consultation with a healthcare expert who can provide you with the most appropriate and personalised recommendations. While CBD may not always be beneficial in this context, medical cannabis, under the supervision of a healthcare provider, may be a suitable option for managing appetite-related issues and should be considered in a well-informed approach to health and wellbeing. 

Releaf understands that medical cannabis can be life-changing for many people. That's why we offer tailored monthly packages based on your cannabis prescription, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection. 

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Authors

With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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