Every week, it seems there’s a new supplement or diet that promises to boost your metabolism and increase weight loss. But just as quickly as these products hit the scene, they fade into the crowded graveyard of short-lived health and wellness trends.
With so many fads out there, the question that inevitably comes up is: Are there any natural ways to increase metabolism and burn fat?
You’ve probably heard of cannabidiol (CBD)—a nonintoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis—and its ability to help fight a variety of conditions like:
- Intractable seizures
- Chronic pain
But have you considered CBD to help speed up your metabolism? According to HelloMD’s co-founder Pamela Hadfield, adding CBD to her daily routine gave her metabolism the boost it needed to get rid of some stubborn baby weight hanging around after her last pregnancy.
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Anecdotal evidence has long been the guiding light for cannabis-related research. So, what do researchers have to say about the metabolism-boosting claims around CBD?
What Is Metabolism?
Before diving into relevant research on CBD’s ability to influence metabolism, let’s get the facts straight. What is metabolism? And why is boosting metabolism integral to weight loss?
Your body needs a certain level of energy to perform basic functions, like breathing and pumping blood. Metabolism is a combination of metabolic processes that create this energy. Metabolism converts food and nutrients into energy and rids the body of waste products. It’s responsible for delivering nutrients on the cellular level, which go on to create energy for muscles, nerves and cells.
When people discuss metabolism in the context of weight loss, they’re referring to the rate at which the body burns calories into energy. Everyone’s metabolic rate is different. And that rate can even vary day to day, depending on what activities you’re doing and what you’re eating.
Generally speaking, the faster the metabolism, the better for weight loss. The more calories that can be burned in the form of energy, the easier it is to maintain a healthy weight. And while some aspects of metabolism are immutable, based on genetics and age, there are some natural ways to boost the body’s metabolic rate.
How the Endocannabinoid System Influences Metabolism
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the network in the body that processes cannabinoids like CBD. It does this via an intricate system of two types of receptors called CB1 and CB2. Cannabinoids interact with these receptors like a lock and key.
These receptors are found throughout the body, including in the brain and digestive tract, and influence many physiological processes like metabolism and appetite. Specifically, the ECS is thought to aid in transporting nutrients and storing energy.
But not all of the ECS’s influence on metabolism is positive. Over-activation of the ECS, specifically CB1 receptors, can actually slow metabolism down. The CB1 receptors can be over-activated by consuming too much of certain cannabinoids, like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabinol (CBN). This can lead to increased:
- Belly fat
- Blood sugar
- Blood pressure
Luckily, not all cannabinoids have this effect.
Using CBD to Boost Metabolism
If you want to speed up metabolism with a natural supplement, CBD is an increasingly promising option for a number of reasons. First, CBD can actually keep CB1 receptors from being over-activated. That’s because CBD is a CB1 antagonist, meaning it keeps CB1 receptors from activating and can work to rev up metabolism as a result.
There are some other interesting ways CBD works to boost metabolism. A study conducted by Korean researchers and published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry observed CBD’s effect on immature fat cells. The researchers concluded that CBD boosts metabolism in three ways:
- Increasing the body’s ability to burn calories by boosting the activity of the mitochondria in cells
- Decreasing the availability of proteins that are necessary to generate fat cells
- Aiding in the browning of fat by stimulating genes and proteins to more effectively break down and oxidize fat cells
CBD & Fat Browning: What You Need to Know
The final point in the list above is one of the most interesting aspects of CBD for boosting metabolism and aiding in weight loss.
Did you know not all fat is unhealthy? Did you even know there were different types of fat? If not, no worries. Even scientific researchers are just beginning to really dive into the difference between white and brown fat. What’s fueling this new interest on the topic is something called fat browning.
White-colored fatty tissue stores energy in the body. This is the type of fat that’s associated with negative health outcomes, like increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
On the other hand, brown fatty tissue burns energy and can actually increase weight loss. According to a study from the Diabetes & Metabolism Journal, brown fat can increase energy expenditure and produce heat, limiting weight gain.
And the more brown fat in your body, the more effective it is. Researchers from this study go so far as to say that brown fat is a “good candidate organ to treat obesity and its related disorders.”
Luckily, it’s possible to turn white fat into brown fat. Researchers know that through a process of activating immune cells in the fat and/or cold exposure, white fatty tissue can turn into its more effective sibling.
But as the study referenced above suggests, CBD can also turn white fat into brown fat, boosting metabolism, burning more energy and limiting weight gain.
While more research is always needed, the studies that do exist on the topic of CBD and metabolism are promising. If you’ve had personal experiences with weight loss or a boost to your metabolism after taking CBD, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Photo credit: Peter Conlan
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