You might have been told that cannabis makes you hungry. A team of researchers is finding a way to use it in a weight loss pill. Why is that so important?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese. Additionally, more than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese, more than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) are extremely obese, nearly 3 in 4 men (74 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese and 8 percent of women are considered to be extremely obese. The prevalence of obesity is similar for both men and women (about 36 percent (https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx).
Medical researchers, who are part of Deakin University Medical School’s Metabolic Research Unit have taken the unusual approach of combining two pharmaceuticals – extracted from cannabis and vitamin A – with the eventual aim of developing a drug to treat obesity. They “used zebrafish and human cells to test the effect of the Endocannabinoid system (an active compound of cannabis which plays a role in appetite regulation and fat formation) and the Retinoic Acid Pathway (an active component of vitamin A) on reducing the deposit of fat,” according to an article in Drug Discovery & Development (https://www.dddmag.com/news/2015/08/medical-researchers-step-closer-developing-anti-obesity-pill?et_cid=4738815&et_rid=45505806&location=top).
As explained by Dr Yann Gibert, the Head of the Metabolic Genetic Diseases Research Laboratory, "The results of our study show, for the first time, that particular compounds in cannabis and vitamin A can work together to reduce the deposit of lipids (fats). This finding opens up exciting opportunities to potentially treat obesity without the need for invasive surgery."
He added, "The complementary actions of the Endocannabinoid system and Retinoic Acid Pathway in reducing fat deposits have the potential to treat obesity in a safer and more effective way than if they were used independently. This approach only focuses on fat, and avoids effects on the brain, which has been a concern in previous research involving cannabis."
While it is understood that the cannabis system regulates appetite, adverse side effects have kept researchers from using drug in humans for medical purposes. Dr. Gilbert’ss research has discovered a method of potentially removing these negative effects by using the two systems together and at a reduced dosage. Inasmuch as this study has shown that these two pathways can work together during fat accumulation, the method of doing so is not clear.
Dr Gibert stated that the team is planning to test the effectiveness of the drug further and to determine whether there are side effects. He concluded, "If there are no side effects, new therapeutics could be ready for human use within five years."