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Should I take my CBD on an empty stomach or with food?
In this article we answer the questions of’ “Does my body absorb CBD extract differently if I consume it on an empty stomach or with food?” and, “If there is a difference, which way is better?” using findings from a recent scientific study assessing the pharmacokinetics of CBD consumed in a fed or fasted state.
Written by: Dr. Jonny Lisano, Ph.D.
The research on how cannabidiol (CBD) and the other active components in marijuana and hemp products is growing; however, the research available on how to consume CBD products is still very limited. One topic that has frequently come up in conversations that I have had is, “Does it matter if I consume my CBD products on an empty stomach, or should I take it with food?”. Well, until now the research available has not provided a clear answer to this question. A recent study from the University of Minnesota sought to provide novel insight in this area by assessing the pharmacokinetics of orally ingested purified CBD when consumed in a fasted or fed state.
The Basics of Pharmacokinetics:
However, before we dive into the results of this study let’s first briefly discuss what the field of pharmacokinetics is and some key terms used in research within this content area. Putting it very simply, pharmacokinetics is a branch of pharmacology that seeks to describe the movement and distribution of drugs or compounds throughout the body. Within the realm of pharmacokinetics there are a few key terms that are often used to describe and compare the movement of these drugs and compounds throughout the body.
- Maximum concentration (Cmax): This is the maximum concentration of the drug/compound (in this case CBD) observed in the blood plasma following administration. This one is pretty intuitive, the higher the maximum concentration the more of that compound there is in the blood.
- Time to maximum concentration (Tmax): This is the time it takes for the compound to reach maximum concentration following administration. Less time to maximal concentration means the quicker that compound reached peak concentration in the blood.
- Area-under-the-curve (AUC): in order to determine this variable multiple data points are needed. These data points are collected over regular intervals in the hours following administration of the drug or compound. The data points are then graphed to determine the total drug/compound exposure over the monitored time period. An example of this can be seen in Figure 1. As can be seen in Figure 1, the AUC for Naringenin is greater than that of Hesperitin over the monitored 24-hour period. A greater AUC means that there’s greater exposure to that drug/compound. So, in this example The drug Naringenin would have greater exposure within the body compared to Hesperitin.
Figure 1: Area Under the Curve Example
Obtained from Science Direct
- Volume of distribution (Vd): This is a very complex and abstract concept when discussing pharmacokinetics; but to put it simply, the volume of distribution is a ratio between the amount of compound taken and the concentration of that compound within the plasma. Based on this ratio, this will give us an indication of how extensively a compound is distributed throughout the rest of the body compared to the plasma. A high volume of distribution means that a compound is going to be distributed more to the tissues and not stay in the plasma, while a low volume of distribution means that the compound will stay localized in the plasma.
- Plasma oral clearance (PC): This parameter is used to describe the volume of plasma that the compound is completely removed from per unit of time, typically expressed in hours. This will tell you how quickly the compound is removed from the plasma. A higher plasma oral clearance means quicker removal.
Alright, I know that was a lot of information that you just went through on the basics of pharmacokinetics, but a good understanding of those few terms will help you better understand the results of this study.
The study had a total of eight participants suffering from difficult to control epilepsy. These participants were recruited to participate in two separate testing conditions by consuming a specific amount of purified CBD while fasted state or with food. For both conditions participants arrived 10-hours fasted and had resting blood samples taken prior to either consuming 300mg of 99% pure CBD with water (fasted) or consuming 300mg of CBD with water and a high-fat breakfast (fed) of 840-860 calories (500-600 of the calories coming from fat). These participant’s blood was then taken at 0.5, 1, 2, 2.5, 3.5, 4, 5, 6, 24, 48, and 72 hours post CBD consumption and analyzed for plasma concentration of CBD. All eight participants went through both trial conditions separated by roughly 2-weeks between trials. In Figure 2 below you can see the average concentrations of CBD in the plasma over that 72-hour period. The red line represents the results from the fed trial while the darker line represents the fasted trial.
Figure 2: Pharmacokinetic Graph of Consuming CBD in a Fasted or Fed State
In fed state participants had demonstrated a significantly greater maximum concentration (Cmax) than when they consumed their CBD in the fasted state. In both trials the time to maximal concentration (Tmax) varied between 1 to 6-hours, but on average participants reached Tmax quicker in the fed trial. The fed trial had an average time to maximal concentration of 2.4-hours compared to 3.2-hours in the fasted state. These results show that not only did participants in the fed trial reach a higher Cmax but also had a quicker Tmax as well.
Intuitively, you might look at Figure 2 and think, “Well clearly the area under the curve (AUC) in the fed state is greater than that of the fasted state.” Guess what? You’d be correct! Statistically the AUC was significantly greater in the fed state. This means that over the monitored 72-hour period that participants who consumed their CBD with food had greater exposure to CBD than when they only consumed CBD with water. Even though they took the exact same amount of purified CBD (300mg) in the fed state as they did in the fasted state!
The volume of distribution was considered high in both the fasted and fed trials; however, the volume of distribution was greater in fasted participants. While this may not sound like a desirable result for the fed condition, both conditions still had high volumes of distribution! This means that regardless of the method of ingestion, when CBD is absorbed by the bloodstream it is highly dispersed to your tissues and does not remain in the blood. That is good, because we want CBD to be able to interact with the endocannabinoid system of our body. Also, when assessing the plasma oral clearance, fed individuals had a significantly lower clearance rate than fasted individuals. One explanation the researchers offer for why we see these effects on the volume of distribution is that consuming CBD with food is actually increasing the bioavailability of CBD! Which is a very good thing.
Obviously this study did not take into account the co-ingestion of CBD with lower fat content meals, and I’m not telling you to go out and consume 70 grams of fat every time you take your CBD, but results from this study do indicate that consuming CBD with a meal containing fat increases both the absorption and bioavailability of CBD in the body. Potentially increasing the effectiveness of your CBD. So, I’ll leave you with this, consuming CBD with a meal containing fats may get you more bang for your CBD buck.
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Jonny received his Ph.D. from the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) in Exercise Physiology. During his time at (UNC) he and his advisor established the first cannabis and exercise performance laboratory in the nation. Jonny’s early research pertaining to cannabis focused on the assessment of how the long-term use of cannabis products in physically active individuals affected parameters of overall health and exercise performance. As he progressed into the field of cannabis research his focused shifted from exercise performance to that of how CBD affects immune function in physically active individuals who are using cannabis products.
Jonny has always been an advocate for living a healthy lifestyle and believes CBD can be an integral part of that. His focus at 6° Wellness is to provide and explain the most current scientific knowledge pertaining to cannabis in a way everyone can understand, and providing recommendations on how the products we offer can fit into your lifestyle.
In his free time Jonny enjoys training for competitive obstacle course races, hiking the beautiful Colorado backcountry, and partaking in the occasional beer from the local craft beer scene.