Could CBD be a viable solution for food addiction?

Published Dec 5, 2020 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Vadym Petrochenko

We all have those moments where we indulge in a few too many cookies or handfuls of chips. Especially after getting stoned, but far too many people struggle with a compulsion to eat, and it can be so severe that it takes over every aspect of their lives. There are many different reasons behind this societal issue, including stress, depression, convenience, habit, and other health problems, reaching concerning proportions. According to the latest research, 1 in 20 Canadians has a food addiction, which is why scientists and health experts are doing their best to work towards a solution.

The obesity epidemic

This data suggests that as many as 1 in 4 Canadians struggles with obesity. If past trends continue, those numbers are expected to go nowhere but up, causing public health officials to fear for our future. Obesity doesn’t only impact those with the diagnosis. Our healthcare system and the friends and family members of those medically compromised are also adversely affected. Food addiction can be life-threatening. Those it doesn’t kill generally wind up with lifelong severe health complications, which is why it’s a problem that most agree we need to address immediately.

How we currently treat food addiction

Right now, we use four main treatments to assist those who want or need to figure out how to stop overeating.

  1. A 12-step program guides each person through peer to peer support meetings and education in dietary needs.

  2. Pharmaceutical treatments that treat a symptom are believed to cause overeating or suppress the craving for food directly.

  3. Cognitive behavioural therapy has shown some promising results for treating food addiction. Psychologists typically carry out this form of treatment, but only those who specialize in eating disorders are recommended.

  4. Psychiatrists can sometimes help people who need to talk about their struggles with food and those who might benefit from learning effective coping skills for avoiding food cravings. They may sometimes combine sessions with prescription drugs to maximize effectiveness. Still, the goal is typically to equip the individual with the skills they need to make healthy lifestyle and food decisions.

The stigma

Food addiction is a severe condition, and yet society still mocks the issue as if it is something that should easily be controlled when we should be facing what is a widespread problem as one. Unfortunately, eating disorders like food addiction also don’t have many effective treatment options, so even when people with them are brave enough to seek help, they are often left to fall through the cracks after an unsuccessful attempt at all of them.

How CBD can help to combat food addiction

Researchers have been trying to figure out the direct link between CB1 receptors and appetite for years, but what we do know so far looks promising. We also know that those with higher body fat content have far more CB1 receptors and that they interact with CBD in a way that seems to quite effectively suppress uncontrollable cravings and appetite, an effect that has been demonstrated time and time again with mice.

Is THC just as effective?

THC has the opposite effect of CBD as it ignites the CB1 receptors, which triggers a good old case of the munchies. Some say that THC can still play a role in weight loss, depending on the person. Though it does stimulate appetite, it does so more frequently, prompting the person to eat smaller amounts, which in theory is healthier, easier to digest, and leads to far less weight gain. Still, there is no evidence to show that the euphoric cannabinoid is as helpful as CBD when it comes to food addiction.

A highly debated treatment option

CBD might not be the solution for all food addicts, but it could be a useful tool that could assist millions of people in making progress towards a healthier tomorrow. Though it might take a while before it becomes fully accepted by mainstream medicine, due to a lack of human-focused trials, people all over the world are reporting successful results after starting a CBD treatment. So, there is plenty enough proof to recognize that, at least for some, it works!

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