The human body’s system for maintaining balance is deeply complex and the center that controls your appetite—the hypothalamus—is certainly no exception. And while numerous mechanisms are at play, knowing how your hunger is stimulated and controlled is key to understanding why taking CBD does not cause artificial fluctuations in your appetite.
Let’s step through the bodily processes at play and unpack the science behind why CBD won’t trigger your hunger:
It All Starts With the Endocannabinoid System
The reason for this starts with knowing that we all have what’s called an endocannabinoid system—a master regulatory system that monitors your immune, nervous and digestive systems.
Sound complex? It is—but the endocannabinoid system has a clever way of controlling the balance of these systems by being a great communicator. It sends and receives messages via chemical messengers that circulate throughout called endocannabinoids (naturally occurring in the body) and cannabinoids (like CBD—derived from the cannabis plant).
But First, Get Past the Guard
It’s the job of these cannabinoids to attach to certain cannabinoid receptors that sit “guard” on the surfaces of your cells—when this “guard” permits entry the chemical messengers bind to receptors and produce particular flow-on effects in the body (like hunger).
In relation to appetite, the receptor that is relevant here is CB1—found throughout the body but mainly in the brain (including the hypothalamus—the control center for appetite). The way in which the CB1 receptor is stimulated determines whether huger chemicals get released. Because CBD does not bind directly to the CB1 receptor it does not cause an increase in appetite.
This is in stark contrast to the cannabinoid THC (the compound in marijuana that gets you high) which does bind directly to the CB1 receptor—this explains why marijuana is so commonly associated with a spike in hunger.
The Lock & Key Explains It All
The best way to think about cannabinoids, like CBD and their receptors is like a lock and key. When you consume cannabinoids like CBD they act like “keys” flooding your body in search of receptors (the “locks”). When they find one that fits, the effects of the cannabinoid and the function and location of the receptor “click” together and messages are sent through the rest of your body.
So, in other words, CBD is not a “key” that fits the CB1 “lock” and, as a result, it cannot unlock the reaction to feeling an increase in appetite. Comparatively, THC does fit the CB1 lock which explains why it’s so commonly associated with the “munchies”.
It’s easy to see that our bodies have a deeply complex system to control food intake and for keeping you in balance. And while CBD does not play a role in appetite fluctuations, it certainly has an important role to play in the wider endocannabinoid system—influencing other types of receptors and helping to naturally restore balance to your body’s masterful endocannabinoid system.