CBD for Weight Loss: How CBD Affects Appetite

Cannabidiol, or CBD as it is more commonly known, has attracted a lot of attention from the medical and wellness arena in recent years, including how it may affect our appetite and weight.
Written by 
Dr Shane McKeown, Acute Internal Medicine (AIM).
|Last Updated:
CBD for Weight Loss

Famously derived from the cannabis plant, it is purported to have numerous health benefits whilst remaining non-psychoactive, unlike the other well known ingredient from cannabis, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).[1]

While the function and effects of CBD and THC seem to be largely separate, appetite remains one area which seems to be affected by both compounds.

The CBD appetite conundrum

Whilst many want to investigate the potential therapeutic effects of CBD in greater detail, for most of recent history research has mainly looked at the effects of the cannabis plant as a whole.

This is a source of much confusion within the medical and health community who are of course always on the lookout for reliable, safe alternatives to currently available medicines and treatments.

With each cannabis plant varying in concentrations of CBD and THC, having a mixture makes it very hard to work out the extent of any beneficial effects and exactly where they are coming from.

Cannabis is well known to cause a significantly increased appetite or ‘hyperphagia’, dubbed ‘the munchies’, within minutes of ingestion either via smoking or eating. This effect however has been shown to come straight from the THC molecule, not CBD.[2]

If cannabis increases appetite, then you would expect people who smoke cannabis to be generally overweight. In fact, they are paradoxically skinnier than those who do not use cannabis.

So does CBD affect appetite?

If the THC in cannabis causes increased food intake, but cannabis users have a lower rate of obesity than the general population, what exactly is going on?

It was initially thought that CBD must act in the opposite direction, suppressing appetite even more than THC was stimulating it.

A research team however uncovered that the relationship is more subtle and complex than that. They found that in their study, CBD did not directly alter the appetite of the research participants.

However, and this is a significant finding, they demonstrated that the CBD acted against receptors in the brain which managed a person’s appetite. Instead of suppressing appetite, CBD was shown to stop the brain from going into constant over-eating mode, even when pushed by molecules like THC.[3]

So, in one study at least, CBD can be claimed to change a person’s response to hunger and their desire to eat more than required, rather than directly increasing or decreasing hunger at any one time.

CBD for Weight Loss

As interest in CBD has grown, so has the level of research. More recent work has focused on the ingestion limiting properties found in the study above.

More interesting is the move towards studies showing direct effects that CBD could have on appetite or weight change.

It has now been found that CBD has curious fat burning properties, specifically changing white adipose tissue (fat) into brown adipose tissue. This is important because white fat stays in our body and makes us unhealthy and overweight while brown fat is readily available to be used as energy.

More research is still needed but this seems to be another way CBD modulates and lessens our appetite. By reducing the amount of white fat in your body, not only is weight loss encouraged by burning brown fat, your appetite could be reduced as well.

This is because of a hormone called Neuropeptide Y(NPY). This hormone controls your appetite and the amount of energy you have available throughout the day. Researchers have found that the lower the amount of white fat in your body the lower the levels of NPY and a lower appetite overall.[5]

So aside from the weight loss effect mentioned, intake of CBD is likely to increase the release of NPY over time and bring down your appetite with it.

How CBD affects appetite

As is often the case for exciting new medications and treatments, there is a lot of positive discussion and research surrounding CBD and appetite change. More concrete findings are required to further substantial these claims in the future, but currently available research strongly indicates that CBD can not only reduce the upper limit of your appetite but shrink it overall as well. This is great news for those looking to improve their health in a natural way.


  1. Gorter RW. Cancer cachexia and cannabinoids. Forsch Komplementarmed. 1999;6 Suppl 3:21-2.
  2. Le foll B, Trigo JM, Sharkey KA, Le strat Y. Cannabis and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for weight loss?. Med Hypotheses. 2013;80(5):564-7.
  3. Scopinho AA, Guimarães FS, Corrêa FM, Resstel LB. Cannabidiol inhibits the hyperphagia induced by cannabinoid-1 or serotonin-1A receptor agonists. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011;98(2):268-72.
  4. Parray, Hilal Ahmad, and Jong Won Yun. “Cannabidiol promotes browning in 3T3-L1 adipocytes.” Molecular and cellular biochemistry vol. 416,1-2 (2016): 131-9. doi:10.1007/s11010-016-2702-5
  5. Sitticharoon, Chantacha, et al. “Expressions of Neuropeptide Y and Y1 Receptor in Subcutaneous and Visceral Fat Tissues in Normal Weight and Obese Humans and Their Correlations with Clinical Parameters and Peripheral Metabolic Factors.” Regulatory Peptides, vol. 185, Aug. 2013, pp. 65–72. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.regpep.2013.06.015.


Dr Shane McKeown
Dr Shane McKeown
Acute Internal Medicine (AIM)
Dr Shane McKeown is a UK clinician with experience in both Medicine and Surgery. With a strong background in education, he currently teaches all grades of doctor and sits as examiner for foreign medical staff looking to work in the United Kingdom. Working within rehabilitation and therapy, he utilizes complementary treatments like CBD to provide holistic care where it is most effective. His expertise with CBD continues to be called upon by numerous brands to optimise their product offerings.

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