Updated on November 23, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
When you think of consuming cannabis, losing weight is probably the last association you have. How many times have you heard of someone eating a swath through the fridge? Or the cupboards because of a little marijuana?
Obesity in the United States is epidemic. That means the number of Americans who are morbidly obese (with health risks) has tipped the scales. Literally. And the impact of obesity comorbidities is already being felt on the healthcare system. And demonstrated in skyrocketing rates of chronic diseases.
There are strains of cannabis that can help with pain relief. Some strains can be good for reducing anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of mental health disorders. Other types of cannabis can help someone with insomnia fall asleep. And get that deep restorative sleep. Uninterrupted by pain, anxiety, or other symptoms.
Is it too far of a stretch of the imagination? To think there may be one of the hundreds of cannabinoids that could help with losing weight? Most people who have tried cannabis have experienced the irresistible ‘munchies.’ The way some types of weed make you want to eat everything is legendary.
Now researchers and consumers are looking at THC-V. And what appears to be appetite suppressing qualities inside the unique cannabinoid. Some people are saying that THC-V could support weight loss goals, in a doctor-supervised plan.
Is that something that could be prescribed? Could obesity and related symptoms become a qualifying health condition for medical cannabis in the future? Some are starting to think so.
How is THC-V Different Than Standard Tetrahydrocannabinols
Just when you thought you knew all the different types of THC. There is the old familiar Delta-9 THC, which is marijuana. You may have heard about the close cousins of marijuana. Derived from hemp but processed and semi-synthetic. That is the Delta-10 and Delta-8 THC products.
Now meet tetrahydrocannabivarin or THC-V. Unless you have some major laboratory and molecular chops, it’s hard to explain. Each type of THC has its own unique molecular structure. And the clinical study we think started and escalated the conversation about THC-V was this one.
“[The] clinical and therapeutic advantages of THCV regarding its lack of psychoactive effects in human studies are of great value in pharmacotherapy. It is envisioned that the unique and diverse characteristics of THCV could be explored for further development into clinically useful medicines for the treatment of life-threatening diseases.”
The impact of THC-V on CB1 and CB2 receptors was a mixed bag, however. The research showed both positive and negative effects. And they suggested more in-depth research into THC-V. But one of the things that fascinated researchers was how effective the appetite suppressant qualities of THC-V were.
Because THC-V is so effective, it is not recommended for patients with certain health conditions. Like bulimia or anorexia. But treating patients with morbid or life-threatening obesity? That is one of the applications that hold a great deal of promise.
What Do You Mean THC-V Is Not Psychoactive?
Isn’t it great that we are finally where the medical community acknowledges the medicinal potential of cannabis? From soul-stealing devil’s lettuce to harnessing cannabinoids and making their pharmaceuticals.
Last year the first cannabinoid prescription drug was FDA approved. Epidiolex is now available for patients with a rare type of epilepsy. What has been holding back the therapeutic use of cannabis in treatment plans has been impairment. The benefits of cannabinoids are equally balanced with the psychoactive experience after taking them.
The goal for any pharmaceutical is not to create impairment. Interestingly, the leading choice prescription drug for pain remains opioids. And opioids can (and do) cause a degree of impairment and drowsiness. But they are still prescribed.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THC-V, has been shown to have all the ‘good stuff’ that traditional types of THC (including Delta’s) have. Without the impairment. Even at higher doses, THC-V provides little to no psychoactive effects. That means you stay sober. But with less inflammation. And, potentially, get a little help with curbing your appetite, and sticking to your doctor-supervised weight loss program.
Diabetes Affects Over Ten Percent of American Adults
Remember when diabetes was a fairly obscure diagnosis? Growing up, you may not have heard much about diabetes at all. Occasionally you might meet someone who needed injections for Type I diabetes. And a special medical card to monitor the condition.
From the 1970s to the present day, diabetes diagnoses have increased. Not by a little; by quite a lot. The following graph was taken from “Long Term Trends in Diabetes 2017” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In 2021, the CDC estimates that 34.2 million Americans, or about 1 in 10, have been diagnosed with diabetes. But a startling 1 in every 3 Americans has prediabetes. Unmanaged glucose levels which predict the onset of diabetes. That is another 88 million Americans and combined with diagnosed patients, that would be over 120 million coping with the disease.
Diabetes is a problem today. And a significant burden on the healthcare system. One study reported that between 5% to 10% of patients with prediabetes are diagnosed with hyperglycemia annually. That could be another 4 to 5 million new cases of diabetes annually in the U.S.
Obesity is the biggest risk factor associated with adult-onset diabetes. It may be an effective way to help patients lose weight. And for people struggling to maintain healthy body weight, it could be an ounce (or two) of prevention.