CBD and appetite
If you've ever smoked cannabis, been around people smoking cannabis, or even just seen a movie with folks lighting up — you've probably heard of the munchies; the classic symptom of cannabis use — insatiable snacking. This is a direct effect of THC. But what about CBD and appetite? With the flood of new cannabis products on the market, it can be tough to know how different products are going to affect you.
Well, when it comes to CBD and appetite — it depends. Depending on the specific formulation of cannabinoids coupled with your individual body chemistry, CBD can be an appetite stimulant or a depressant. Let's take a deeper look.
How Appetite Works
Hunger is one of the most basic human instincts and is an essential principle of human survival. However, appetite is different from hunger. Appetite is not the body's need for nutrients, but the mind's wanting to eat food. Note that many different conditions cause people who need to eat food to not have the urge to eat any food, or vice versa. Both appetite and hunger are controlled by the brain.
The hypothalamus is in charge of regulating hunger and appetite. Located in the forebrain, the hypothalamus is responsible for releasing hormones that control a whole host of bodily systems, including hunger and appetite. Certain external and internal cues can cause the hypothalamus to release hormones to induce hunger and appetite.
External cues include:
The timing of a meal
The smell of food
The presentation of food
Social interactions coupled with food
Internal cues include:
Heightened energy requirements from increased exercise
Dysfunction of other systems involved in appetite and metabolism
Other things that affect appetite include changes in mental state — mood and emotions can change the hormonal balance of the brain, and extend into altering states of appetite. Some conditions like sadness might cause you to have an increased appetite and search for comfort food, while conditions like anxiety and stress might wipe out your appetite entirely.
THC and Appetite
Before we get into how CBD affects appetite on its own, let's look into why whole plant cannabis causes the munchies.
THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, and it is responsible for the feeling of being high; THC is also the reason that cannabis causes you to have the munchies. You see, THC causes the hypothalamus to produce more a hormone called ghrelin, and to produce less of a hormone called leptin. Ghrelin is the "hunger hormone," and increases food intake. Leptin, sometimes referred to as the "fat controller," inhibits hunger.
THC also binds to CB1 receptors, causing your brain to increase its release of dopamine, which, in turn, causes your experience of smelling, tasting, eating, and enjoying food to be heightened overall. The higher the levels of THC, the more ghrelin is produced, less leptin is produced, and the muchies become harder and harder to fight off.
CBD and Appetite
Though CBD and THC are similar in many ways, they do work differently in the body — and this changes the way CBD affects the appetite compared to THC. CBD does not bind to the CB1 receptor sites that THC does, so it doesn't trigger those dang munchies. In fact, CBD can block these receptor sites, weakening THC's effects. It is for this reason that CBD can be used alongside THC to mitigate some of these unwanted side effects.
Depending on your body's unique chemistry and needs, CBD can affect you and your appetite in multiple ways.
CBD as an Appetite Stimulant
CBD has not been found to be a direct appetite stimulant. However, the properties of CBD can create the conditions for an increased appetite and have been found to do so well. Some of these include:
Stress & Anxiety Relief — Stress and anxiety can play a huge role in appetite, often diminishing it. CBD increases GABA activity in the brain and helps to block the brain's stress response. As a long-term strategy, CBD can be used for stress management to increase appetite.
Nausea Reduction — CBD has been shown to reduce nausea for people suffering from it, including as a symptom of cancer treatment or AIDS.
CBD as an Appetite Suppressant
CBD has been found, scientifically and anecdotally, to be more of an appetite suppressant for most people.
Increased Hypothalamus Sensitivity — CBD increases the sensitivity of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls hunger and the appetite, to external factors. This helps the hypothalamus to only signal hunger/appetite when necessary.
Increased Mitochondrial Function — CBD may increase the function of mitochondria — "the powerhouse of the cell" — which creates the energy our cells require to function. This means our cells are better at converting fats, sugars, and carbs into useable energy. The theory is, if our cells get better at creating and using energy, we need less food.
CBD and Appetite — A Final Word
So... CBD and appetite don't have conclusive evidence one way or the other. It really depends on your body's own chemistry and what your body needs. However, these properties of CBD are important to keep in mind when using straight CBD products or mixing them with THC products or other cannabinoids.