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Does CBD Make You Hungry?

Date 11th Feb 2021

Does CBD Make You Hungry?

Marijuana use has often been associated with a sometimes comically insatiable appetite, infamously called the "munchies."

CBD or cannabinol is one of the main cannabinoids produced in cannabis plants and it's become the trending cannabinoid for its long list of health-supporting benefits. Unlike THC, CBD shouldn't give you the munchies, but research shows that CBD may have some influence on your appetite.

In this article, we'll talk about how cannabinoids affect appetite and answer your questions about whether CBD increases or suppresses your appetite. 

neurogan cbd softgels on a table

Why Do We Feel Hungry?

To understand how compounds from a humble plant can affect our appetite, it's first helpful to know the mechanisms at play that influence our eating habits.

The sensation of hunger is a balance of hormones and chemicals controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain. Every time external or internal influences activate the lateral thalamus, it causes us to feel hunger. The ventromedial thalamus controls satiety. Whenever the ventromedial thalamus is stimulated, we feel full.

Environmental influences on our appetite include social gatherings, the scent of food, meal scheduling, and even something as subtle as how the food is plated. Physiological influences on our appetite include a demand for more energy, hormonal changes, or dysfunction of systems that regulate hunger.

Set-Point Theory is a genetically programmed weight range that a metabolic system tries to maintain to keep an "optimal weight range" for our bodies. To maintain this ideal weight range, the hypothalamus turns on and off to regulate our appetite impulses.

What Is The Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the largest biological system of receptors and neurotransmitters found throughout the brain and nervous systems in all mammals.

The discovery of the ECS was thanks to scientists investigating the effects cannabis produced in the body. It turns out that plant-based cannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, behave similarly to internally produced cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, that act as messengers in this complex system that maintains homeostasis for a wide range of physiological functions necessary for our survival, including our motivations to eat.

The ECS permeates vital systems in the human body:

There are three components of the endocannabinoid system: cannabinoids, enzymes, and CB1 and CB2 receptors. Influencing our level of cannabinoids by supplementation may have many benefits to our overall health by improving the ECS's efficiency. Some cannabinoids, like THC, can directly influence our hunger through their unique pharmacological interactions. 

neurogan full spectrum cbd oil with cbd smoothie in the background

Why Does THC Make You Hungry?

THC is the main psychoactive component of cannabis. It's also what's largely responsible for the munchies experienced from marijuana use. Think of cannabinoids and their molecular shapes as keys that match receptors in the ECS. Once it binds to a receptor, it unlocks a series of actions.

There are a few mechanisms at play for why THC may cause the munchies: 

THC Enhances Scent & Taste Receptors

THC is a known partial agonist to CB1 receptors in the brain. A partial agonist means that it binds to a receptor site, but it cannot produce the receptor's full effects. Nevertheless, THC's interaction at the CB1 receptor is fundamentally responsible for the high feeling that shifts our environmental perceptions.

THC has been shown to increase our olfactory score, a.k.a, our sense of smell [1]. This heightened sensitivity can make the taste of food much more pleasurable and enhance our hunger. 

THC Activates The Nucleus Accumbens

The nucleus accumbens is the pleasure-seeking center in the brain. Whenever we do something necessary to our survival (eat, sex, exercise), it triggers a release of dopamine in the brain as a reward [2].

Sugary and fatty foods also activate feel-good hormones in this region of the brain, so we may want to actively seek them out to increase pleasure while under the influence of marijuana [3]. 

THC Activates Ghrelin

The hypothalamus picks up on the low-energy signals, and a bunch of appetite-stimulating neurons travels out to inform other areas of our body to tell us it's time to eat.

Ghrelin also called the "hunger hormone," is produced into the gastrointestinal tract. Levels of ghrelin in the blood are highest when we're hungry. The activation of CB1 receptors initiates the mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) pathway, increasing ghrelin and appetite [4].

neurogan cbd capsules with girls hand in bottle grabbing a capsule

CBD And The Endocannabinoid System

CBD doesn't cause the munchies the same way THC does because it doesn't have an affinity to bind to either the CB1 or CB2 receptors. As a result, CBD's effects on our appetite are much more subtle.

Instead of binding to the ECS receptors in the brain and nervous systems, CBD inhibits the release of enzymes that break down internally produced cannabinoids, helping the overall system function much more efficiently. CBD may affect our appetite by toning the endocannabinoid system, keeping an optimum amount of endocannabinoids in our system to facilitate its regulatory functions.

If currently, you're not on a regular eating schedule, it can help to return your body to a state of homeostasis that can improve your eating habits.This can be helpful if you're experiencing a lack of appetite. Consuming CBD could help to support regulating your diet.

On the other end, if you find yourself insatiably hungry, CBD may help bring balance to your hunger-response by improving the hypothalamus' sensitivity.

Why Is Boosting The Appetite Important?

Our energy comes from the food and drinks we consume. The appetite is our desire to consume nutrients. Sometimes health conditions and side effects from medications can affect our urge to eat, so we don't end up consuming the nutrients we need to perform vital functions.

Other than relying on anyone substance alone to increase your appetite, consider these small lifestyle changes to improve your nutrient intake:

  • Schedule meal times
  • Eat more nutrient-dense food and less processed foods.
  • Take vitamin supplements
  • Consider stress-management practices (meditation, yoga, therapy)
  • Make meals a social occasion

Can CBD Help The Appetite?

CBD Oil May Support Healthy Stress Response

CBD may affect our appetite by its mood-enhancing and stress-relieving benefits. Changes in our mood can significantly affect our eating habits.

When we're stressed, the central nervous system kicks in with the fight-or-flight response, releasing cortisol hormones into the blood-stream. This stress hormone suppresses our appetite, shifting to focus on energy expenditure to either run or fight potential danger [5].

There are very few dangers we encounter that we physically have to fight or flee from today. However, the physiological response is still very similar to external stressors in today's modern world, such as financial troubles, work, or relationships. CBD has been shown to increase GABA in the brain, a neurotransmitter that acts as a brake pedal to the stress response [6]. Stress management is a long-term and sustainable way to improve a healthy and regular appetite.

CBD Oil May Support Stomach Discomfort

Animal studies suggest that cannabidiol may ease stomach discomfort, including: the urge to vomit, dizziness, and vertigo [7].

Nausea or any other form of stomach discomfort makes it difficult to enjoy food, let alone build up an appetite. Quelling these symptoms may be enough to improve your urges to eat so that you can properly nourish your body.

neurogan full spectrum cbd oil on a rock

Ways CBD Can Suppress The Appetite

CBD Can Improve Hypothalamus Sensitivity

Remember, the ECS is involved in maintaining homeostasis in our body's vital systems, our metabolic function being one of them. CBD can suppress a ravenous appetite by improving the hypothalamus' sensitivity. Sometimes external factors and even physiological changes in hormones can alter our sensitivity to hunger and satiety signals [8].

If our body has enough energy stores, we shouldn't feel the urge to eat, so improving the hypothalamus sensitivity can curb unnecessary cravings.

Regular CBD Use May Improve Mitochondrial Function

CBD has been shown to target mitochondria to regulate Ca2 levels [9]. As we know, the mitochondria are the "powerhouse of the cell." Improving mitochondrial function makes it a more efficient powerhouse to convert fat and sugars into energy, meaning we're using the energy we consume much more efficiently and don't crave other energy sources.

Does CBD Oil Increase Appetite With 0.3% THC?

Full spectrum CBD oil or whole hemp extract oils contain up to 0.3% THC.

This very low concentration of THC shouldn't be enough to induce the munchies or intoxicating effects. However, people new to CBD oils or people consuming high doses of CBD oil someones report the urge to munch on treats.

The Takeaway: Can CBD Make You Hungry?

Everyone may have a different experience with CBD depending on their health condition, genetics, and experience with CBD oils. When we look at the studies for how CBD may affect the appetite, there's not enough information to prove that CBD directly activates hunger-inducing pathways the same way THC does.

CBD has a unique effect on the endocannabinoid system. Rather than binding to the main receptors, CB1 and CB2, CBD increases the levels of endogenous cannabinoids, helping the ECS perform its job better as a master regulator of vital systems. 

To answer your question, "does CBD increase appetite?"

CBD may subtly increase your appetite by toning the ECS if you need to be consuming more food. At the same time, if you're over-consuming food, CBD may help suppress your appetite by increasing the sensitivity of your satiety signals.

If you're looking for more resources on the effects and benefits of CBD, be sure to read more articles like this on our blog.

Resources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC42438...
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC49726...
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC31509...
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26563389/
  5. https://www.jneurosci.org/content/29/7/2053.short
  6. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/nutrition-...
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC31659...
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC59388...
  9. https://www.jneurosci.org/content/29/7/2053.short

Disclaimer

The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.

Katrina Lubiano
Katrina Lubiano

Katrina Lubiano is a content writer in the health and wellness space based in Vancouver, Canada — Canada's epicenter for cannabis culture. When she's not working, she enjoys sailing, watercolor painting, and cooking.