Eating Disorders (e.g. Anorexia, Bulimia, Obesity)

Whilst there are some physical conditions (e.g. cancer, AIDS/HIV, diabetes) that can cause anorexia- (cachexia) or obesity- like symptoms, they are also conditions of their own. Though using cannabis to treat eating disorders is not a new and novel idea, it is still one area that could do with a lot more research. Eating disorder include not only anorexia and bullimia, but obesity, too. These health problems may either be the result or cause of other conditions, too, e.g. diabetes, cancer or the use of harsh anti-retroviral drugs.

There is increasing evidence pointing out the relationship between endocannabinoids and eating disorders. Some speculate that all eating disorders like obesity and anorexia are caused at least in part by a defective endocannabinoid system (ECS). Anorexia has a high mortality rate, and managing it is very difficult, with very little evidence out there for effective treatments. Leptin, ghrelin and cannabinoids provide us with hope for one.

There are various ways in which eating disorders can be defined, but the overarching theme is one’s relationship with food. Those with anorexia nervosa tend to avoid or fear food, imagining themselves to be overweight. Those with bulimia nervosa tend to binge-and-purge on food.

Those with obesity are not necessarily suffering from an eating disorder in the strictest sense (it is a result of endocrine, genetic disorders, other conditions or medications in some instances, rather than just a case of over-eating and lack of exercise). However, for most cases of obesity, it could be argued that obesity is a form of “food addiction” of sorts – in particular, foods with high amounts of refined sugar.

Obesity affects an estimated 600 million adults and 100 million children worldwide. The 2015-16 figures from the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC showed that 39.6% of US adults aged 20 or over are obese. Obesity is cited as a major cause or contributing factor for deaths in the United States, with between 100 and 400,000 deaths per year being potentially related to obesity. Obesity costs the US approximately $117 billion in direct health costs, making up between 6% to 12% of national healthcare expenditure in the US. This means that obesity is one of the biggest health problems in both the US and the world today.

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