CBD and food: what is the situation?
Think about the last time you took CBD: was it with or without food? Most of us, especially if you have a job from 9 to 5, children and all other daily tasks, choose to take the CBD several times a day, when you wake up, at lunch and before you go to bed. In all three of these situations, we are offering the CBD a different set of biological variables to work with. In the morning our stomach is empty. At lunch we probably have something to digest, while our final dose of CBD usually follows a more substantial dinner.
Until recently we had to rely on anecdotal evidence and groundless statements to understand if the scenarios described above made some difference to the effect of CBD on the organism. Today we finally have useful data to answer the frequently asked question: “Should I take CBD with or without food?”
Should you take CBD with food?
From what we know so far, there are good reasons to suggest taking CBD on a full stomach . To understand why CBD seems to have a higher absorption rate when taken together with food, we need to explain two concepts: bioavailability and the first pass effect. The first is defined as “the proportion of a drug or other substance that enters the circulation when it is introduced into the body and is therefore able to have an active effect”. In layman terms, bioavailability is the amount and speed at which CBD enters the bloodstream.
Improving bioavailability is crucial: the lower the bioavailability, the greater the consumption of a substance to have effects comparable to a more bioavailable alternative. If we can improve the bioavailability of CBD by doing something as simple as taking it with food, then it is just a small gesture that could have significant results.
This leads us pleasantly to the second important concept: the first pass effect. The reason why CBD administered orally has a relatively low bioavailability (slow absorption rate and not all the compound reaches our bloodstream) is because it takes time for CBD to pass through digestive enzymes before entering the liver.
It is here that the cannabinoid is decomposed into its main components by a family of enzymes called cytochrome P450 (CYP450). What begins as a simple CBD molecule actually becomes over 100 different metabolites . Unfortunately many of these metabolites are processed and excreted before they can reach the bloodstream, reducing the overall bioavailability of the CBD.
What does science say about the intake of CBD with food
According to the new findings, the consumption of CBD with food could circumvent the first-pass process, thus improving its overall bioavailability. Don’t just believe in the word. Let’s take a closer look at the research in question.
A study published by the University of Minnesota wanted to observe how CBD was influenced by food in “adult patients with refractory epilepsy”. 8 patients who had previously been prescribed CBD for convulsions were prescribed “single doses in 99% pure CBD capsules” asking to take them “on an empty stomach (without breakfast) and on a full stomach (840-860 calories per high fat content) “. To measure the amount of CBD in the blood stream, plasma levels were recorded immediately after and a few days later.
The results showed that, when taken with fatty foods, the amount of CBD recorded in the body increased fourfold compared to readings taken after fasting. Although the sample size is limited, the results are supported by what we know about the absorption rate of fats and oils.
A review of the Harvard Medical School discussed the biofunctionality of fatty acids (long and medium chain triglycerides) discovering that conventional fats and oils act “as a high-energy and rapidly available fuel”. Their conclusion goes hand in hand with the results of the University of Minnesota study.
Fatty foods are more easily absorbed by the body because they can avoid a part of the decomposition that occurs in the first pass effect. Fortunately for CBD users, the compound is naturally hydrophobic and therefore easily binds to oils, while it is water repellent. For this reason it is thought that some of the CBD molecules bind with long-chain triglycerides and enter the body when fats are absorbed, rather than falling victim to P450 enzymes.
Food for thought
We know that this is a lot of information to digest, so it’s worth summarizing.
In a small clinical trial, CBD was found to show improved bioavailability when consumed on a full stomach with fatty foods, such as fish, avocado, walnuts, red meat and coconut oil. Improved bioavailability means that more CBD reaches the target area and at a faster rate. If you are a person who takes CBD first thing in the morning or as a last thing at night on an empty stomach, it may be worth considering a change of habit.
However, it is also worth considering that the sample size of the study described above was very small and, although significant, its results have so far not been replicated on a larger scale. We always advise you to talk to your doctor before consuming CBD or if you are planning changes in your diet or eating habits.