What is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is a serious, life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Patients with anorexia nervosa share some common presentations, including extremely low body weight, obsession over counting daily calories, and an excessive need to control one’s environment. Such patients often tend to gain their sense of self-worth based on their body weight and shape, while having difficulty enjoying what most people find enjoyable.
What are the reasons for anorexia?
- Anorexia, which is mostly psychological, is a disease that affects the body adversely. People are always led down by society and its superficial beauty standards. This disease is most prevalent in women. They aim at losing bodyweight to look good and get a perfect figure in return.
- Sometimes the careers they choose to be in, require them to attain a typical and particular figure throughout, especially professions like modeling and ballet, which require their models to be extremely fit and thin.
Some biological factors, too, can be taken into account for the occurrence of anorexia
- Irregular hormone functions often lead to anorexia. This often results in eating disorders with a psychological impact on one’s life.
- Genetics too play an essential role. People who have family members with anorexia nervosa are more prone to get anorexia due to their genetic susceptibility.
Can CBD be of benefit in treating patients with Anorexia Nervosa?
Unfortunately, limited research has been conducted regarding how many people are affected and what the consequences are of leaving anorexia untreated. It has been reported that over 20 million women and 10 million men will develop an eating disorder at some point in their lives, with anorexia being one of the most commonly encountered disorders. Shockingly, 6% of patients with anorexia have thought about and committed suicide.
Based on the fact that any dysfunctional regulation or underlying imbalances within the endocannabinoid system result in eating disorders, a study conducted in 2011 suggested that developing cannabinoid-derived treatments like CBD (targeting the endocannabinoid system) could be proven to be therapeutically valuable. The study showed that cannabinoids (i.e. cannabidiol) could help correct deficiencies within the endocannabinoid system while helping patients with anorexia nervosa return to a healthy state. However, this was a small study, and large-scale clinical trials investigating the effects of CBD or Cannabidiol are warranted.
In a recent study comparing the effects of cannabis extract “tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)”, THC, and placebo on the appetite and quality of life in patients with cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome, a total of 164 patients completed the study. The results showed that increased appetite was reported by 73%, 58%, and 69% of patients receiving cannabis extract, THC, and placebo, respectively. However, there was no significant difference between various interventions as regards the appetite and the quality of life of included patients.
Till the current time, there is very limited research on the effects of CBD alone on actual patients who suffer from anorexia and therefore, one shouldn’t use CBD oil to treat their anorexia until large-scale clinical trials have confirmed its beneficial effects and its safety profile.