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Can Cannabinoids Make It Harder to Lose Weight?

Jun 15, 2019
Ashley Lawrie

Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

There are a lot of competing forces in our environment that make it difficult to lose weight. Whether it is clever marketing that plays on our emotions and psychology, doubts of personal self-worth, or simple temptations all around us, we have to overcome many obstacles in order to lose stubborn weight.

Previous blogs have mentioned the role that our gut bacteria play in achieving a healthy body composition, and previous blogs have spoken about the potentially beneficial effects of cannabis use. Why are we bringing those two up together? Turns out the body produces cannabinoids – molecules also found in cannabis – within our own bodies. These are known as endocannabinoids (endo meaning within/internal), as they are cannabinoids produced within the body.

According to a recent study, a higher concentration of cannabinoids found in the gut can actually lead to overeating. This has to do with the signals that our gut sends to our brain to let us know that we are satiated.In every human, there is something known as the circadian rhythm. Many people have heard of this as it relates to our sleep and the various sleep stages we go through. But the circadian rhythm is actually a full-day cycle and includes not only sleep and melatonin, but also cortisol, leptin and ghrelin.

As you move through the different sleep stages, your body is eventually triggered to wake up due to an increase in cortisol (most well-known as the stress hormone). Lights, sounds, and sometimes what you ate the night before can trigger this rise in cortisol.

The cortisol helps to wake you up and prepares the body to take on the day and all of the activities that you have planned. Within an hour or two of waking up the brain will receive its first signal from the gut telling the brain that it is hungry and requires nutrients. This comes in the form of ghrelin (think of a ghrumbly stomach).

You’ll typically experience hunger pains when this happens and you find yourself looking through the fridge for your first meal of the day. Once you’ve started to eat, the body will eventually send another signal to the brain in the form of leptin. Leptin tells the brain that the body has enough nutrients to get through the next bout of activity.

The more fat stored on your body, the more leptin your body should be producing and storing. Fat is a form of energy storage, so if you do decide to eat, then leptin should kick in faster than someone who carries less fat on their body. This is a mechanism that was designed to help humans eat only what they needed to in order to survive.

Nowadays we can ignore those feelings of satiety and essentially turn off the leptin signal. It’s like the body gives up on trying to tell you you are done and as a result you never truly feel full.

The study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology found that mice with greater concentrations of cannabinoids in their gut and were considered obese had an even harder time receiving that leptin signal. This led to overeating in the mice, further contributing to their obese state.

The idea of cannabis and overeating is probably a familiar one for many of us. Either you have experienced it yourself or have seen it in a Seth Rogen movie, there is a high correlation of increased snacking with a rise of cannabis consumption. So it kind of makes sense that individuals with larger concentrations of our endocannabinoids are finding it a lot harder to slow down the snacking and feel truly satiated.



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