Here's what the research actually says about CBD and weight loss.

Brierley Horton, M.S., R.D.
February 21, 2020

CBD oil is garnering a lot of attention—and media headlines—these days. It's not surprising: the list of potential benefits is long. People are mostly using CBD to help with chronic pain, arthritis or joint pain and anxiety, according to recent research.

While we don't know how commonly CBD oil is used for weight loss, we do know it's a topic people are talking about—there are millions of results on Google —and also one that researchers are studying.

So, what does the science say about CBD for weight loss? We dug in.

There's promising, positive research about CBD and weight loss.

Until recently, it's more likely that you associate CBD with cannabis and, thus, with an increased appetite (aka "the munchies"). Your hunch isn't wrong—and, no, we're not talking about your first-person college "experiments." Cannabis and cannabis-based medicines have long been prescribed to patients with HIV and cancer to boost their appetite and encourage weight gain. But here's the thing: according to clinical trials, those products don't seem to actually help those patients gain weight.

Turns out, large studies that have looked at the body weights of cannabis users have found them to be leaner than non-cannabis users. And this, interestingly, is despite the fact that cannabis users typically take in more calories than nonusers.

While CBD comes from the cannabis plant, it lacks THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis that can get you high). And one study in the Netherlands that gave people different strains of cannabis found that the folks who got the strain highest in CBD had their appetite increase the least, compared to their counterparts who had the THC-only strain.

Getty / Thanit Weerawan

Related: Here's What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Edibles

But, there's also completely contradictory research about CBD and weight loss.

A study published in 2019 in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that any type of cannabis user (i.e., persistent users, new users and even users who had quit) was more likely to increase their BMI over a 3-year period compared to so-called "never users." This study was very large and also was done prospectively—meaning they followed folks over time. Past studies simply looked at cannabis users at one point in time and compared them to nonusers at the same point in time.

The bottom line about using CBD for weight loss

Research on CBD oil is still in its infancy, and studies that look at CBD and body weight are very limited. Simply put: the verdict is still out. Also, CBD and the products it's in are mostly unregulated, and it's hard for the average consumer to determine the quantity and quality of CBD in over-the-counter products.

That said, general research on the safety of CBD has concluded that it is safe. Using it also typically doesn't elicit many negative side effects. And, it's not ripe for abusing, nor is it a substance that generally leads to dependence.

Advertisement