New research suggests that over half of Americans will be obese within the next ten years. The study in December’s New England Journal of Medicine added that, if current trends continue, one in four Americans will be “severely obese” and that over 250 million children will also suffer from the disease worldwide by the year 2030. The societal cost will be huge, as millions of people suffer tragic health consequences while the healthcare systems designed to protect them are crippled by the increased demands placed upon their services. Obesity is incredibly difficult to treat once it has developed, making it crucial that we understand the disease and find an obesity treatment before the crisis deepens. When one suggests cannabis for obesity, it may be quickly dismissed given the plant’s notoriety for inducing hunger. However, the science surrounding specific appetite-suppressing and diabetes-fighting cannabinoids and terpenes may point to pot as a potent obesity killer.
Understanding America’s Obesity Crisis
The most significant contributor to America’s obesity crisis is sugar — specifically the high fructose corn syrup that’s subsidized by the government and processed in foods and drinks.
Over-consumption of sugar and carbohydrates has been normalized. And studies show that overindulgence on sugar can rewire the brain’s dopaminergic reward system in much the same way as drug abuse.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that forms an integral part of the brain’s “reward circuit.” Certain behaviors prompt its release, which in turn produces a short-term “high,” naturally compelling people to repeat the behavior. But the brain adjusts as the behavior becomes more frequent, releasing less dopamine each time and creating a feedback loop whereby the individual feels obliged to repeat the action more intensely and with increased regularity.
Succumbing to this feedback loop is classified as substance abuse, and studies have found excessive consumption of sugar to produce near-identical effects on the brain’s dopaminergic reward system as taking cocaine. It activates opiate receptors and provokes compulsive behavior, reinforcing neuropathways that build both tolerance and cravings while spurring the indifference to negative consequences that are totemic of addiction.
The issues this addiction causes goes beyond obesity; excessive sugar consumption is also a chief cause of type 2 diabetes, a disease tightly intertwined with America’s obesity epidemic.
Diabetes on the Rise
The International Diabetes Federation claims that roughly one in 11 adults currently suffer from diabetes. It predicts that the number of people with the disease will rise to 578 million by 2030, largely due to a proliferation of unhealthy diets and lifestyles.
Diabetes is already one of the top-10 causes of deaths worldwide, with over half of adult sufferers going undiagnosed. As with obesity, it’s crucial the disease is brought under control, and the current trend reversed. We need to find an effective obesity treatment and diabetes remedy.
However, this progress again comes down to understanding the way certain foods interfere with the body’s dopaminergic reward system. Though it has some genetic components, type 2 diabetes is primarily lifestyle-driven, caused by imbalanced insulin levels that are often the product of excessive sugar consumption. While type 1 diabetes is almost always genetic, type 2 is not congenital; there are still genetic components to the disease, but it can usually be avoided through conscious lifestyle choices.
Cannabis For Obesity: Overcoming a Genetic Predisposition for Obesity or Diabetes
The most important steps to avoiding obesity and diabetes are adopting a healthy diet and maintaining regular physical activity. But some people are more prone to developing certain medical conditions than others, and those with a genetic predisposition toward developing obesity or diabetes may wish to find out early and take additional preemptive measures to prevent their onset.
Anyone wanting to know if they have an increased likelihood of developing obesity or diabetes should first test themselves for the following genetic variants:
- Obesity: FTO
- Type 1 Diabetes: HLA-DQA1, HLA-DQB1-AS1, PTPN22, STAT4
- Type 2 Diabetes: KCNJ11, SLC30A8, TCF7L2
At the bare minimum, someone with one of these variants should be more conscious about regulating their diet and lifestyle. Those two solutions are great obesity treatments. Still, there are further measures people can take to minimize their chances of developing the diseases.
An increasing number of studies are citing cannabis as a potential obesity treatment, taking into account both the behavioral and the physiological effects produced by certain cannabinoids and terpenes. If someone understands the condition that they’re trying to guard against, consuming the below cannabinoids or terpenes in conjunction with making positive lifestyle changes could enhance the resultant health benefits.
Obesity is caused by consuming more calories than you expend. As such, the most obvious way to treat obesity is to reduce your caloric intake, which is most effectively achieved by decreasing your appetite.
Cannabis is a great obesity treatment because it affects appetite due to the concentration of CB receptors in the hypothalamus, the region of the brain responsible for creating appetitive behavior. And while certain cannabinoids can stoke the appetite, THCV has been shown to decrease it.
Read about the weed munchies.
By consuming THCV in or alongside a cannabis strain known to boost energy, it’s possible to become more active while simultaneously reducing caloric intake to significantly redress the balance of calories-in to calories-out.
Preliminary research has shown promise for using CBD to fight diabetes. Studies on mice have found it to reduce insulitis and inhibit cytokine production, significantly reducing the incidence of diabetes, and igniting hope for its eventual use as a preventative treatment. It’s important to find a solid source for CBD, though, as not all CBD is potent enough.
3. Beta-Carboline, Alpha-Pinene, Myrcene, and Alpha-Bisabolol
Of the many terpenes found in cannabis, beta-carboline, alpha-pinene, myrcene, and alpha-bisabolol also happen to be powerful antioxidants. People with antioxidant-rich diets are 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, suggesting a potential use for these terpenes in combatting the disease.
Ocimene also has antioxidative properties, though its real value lies in its ability to inhibit the proliferation of enzymes linked to type 2 diabetes and hypertension. By curbing the production of several inflammatory substances produced by the immune system, the terpene has the potential to hinder the development of diabetes and certain heart conditions.
Terpinolene’s diabetes-suppressing potential underscores the importance of maintaining homeostasis within the entire endocannabinoid system. It helps to stabilize the body’s AKT1 signaling pathway — in which imbalance can cause type 2 diabetes — by reducing the production of specific proteins, demonstrating one of the many health benefits of maintaining a balanced endocannabinoid system.
Getting ahead of the epidemic
Given the difficulty in overcoming diseases like obesity and diabetes, the advantages of taking steps to avoid their onset are clear. Making positive, preventative lifestyle choices is less intrusive than the measures required to live with these conditions once they develop, including evaluating cannabis for obesity treatment. And these choices lead to a better quality of life in the long-run. The obesity crisis may be deepening, but we still have time to get ahead of it with effective obesity treatment.