Marijuana: The Next Diabetes Drug?

  • Share
  • Read Later
Getty Images

Toking up may help marijuana users to stay slim and lower their risk of developing diabetes, according to the latest study, which suggests that cannabis compounds may help in controlling blood sugar.

Although marijuana has a well-deserved reputation for increasing appetite via what stoners call “the munchies,” the new research, which was published in the American Journal of Medicine, is not the first to find that the drug has a two-faced relationship to weight. Three prior studies have shown that marijuana users are less likely to be obese, have a lower risk for diabetes and have lower body-mass-index measurements. And these trends occurred despite the fact that they seemed to take in more calories.

Why? “The most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers,” says Murray Mittleman, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the study. “Their fasting insulin levels were lower, and they appeared to be less resistant to the insulin produced by their body to maintain a normal blood-sugar level.”

The research included over 4,600 men and women participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2005 and 2010. Among them, 48% had smoked marijuana at least once in their lives, and 12% were current cannabis smokers. The authors controlled for other factors like age, sex, income, alcohol use, cigarette smoking and physical activity that could also affect diabetes risk.

Even after these adjustments, the current marijuana users showed fasting insulin levels that were 16% lower than those of former or never users, along with a 17% reduction in another measure of insulin resistance as well. Higher levels on both tests are associated with Type 2 diabetes, which is linked with obesity. Marijuana users also had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein, the so-called good cholesterol, which can protect against heart disease. And the regular smokers also boasted smaller waistlines: on average, they were 1.5 in. (3.8 cm) slimmer than the former users and those who had never smoked cannabis.

Researchers don’t yet know how to explain these correlations — and since the study was not a controlled trial, it’s not clear whether marijuana or some other factor in marijuana users’ lifestyles actually accounted for the beneficial effects. Studies showed, however, that the cannabinoid brain receptors affected by marijuana are deeply involved in appetite and metabolism. But the exact details of how the compound alters the relationship between appetite, caloric intake and insulin response isn’t obvious yet.

One clue, however, may lie in the effects of a diet drug that was developed to have the opposite effect that marijuana has on the brain. That drug, rimonabant, produced significant weight loss and a drop in fasting insulin levels by affecting certain cannabinoid receptors in the exact opposite way that THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, does. This action is complex: rimonabant doesn’t simply block the receptor and keep the natural cannabinoids from activating it. Instead, while the natural cannabinoids elevate the normal level of activity already going on in the system, rimonabant lowers it so the result is precisely the reverse of activating the receptor naturally. However, because of psychiatric side effects like increasing suicide risk, rimonabant was pulled from the European market and never approved in the U.S.

(MORE: Reverse Engineering the Marijuana ‘Munchies’: What Causes Binge Eating?)

How could both marijuana and a compound that has the opposite effect of pot act on the same brain receptors and lead to weight loss? Natural marijuana includes many different potentially active compounds, and one of them — rather than THC — could be responsible for this effect. One potential candidate is a substance called cannabidiol, which also affects cannabinoid receptors, but in a different way from the way THC or rimonabant does.

Another possibility involves tolerance: repeated use of a drug can make receptors less sensitive over time. “The most likely explanation is that prolonged cannabis use causes the [receptors] to lose sensitivity and become inactive,” says Daniele Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, who was not associated with the new research. “This has been shown to happen in people who smoke marijuana. This weakening of [these receptors] translates into a lower risk for obesity and diabetes because the inactive receptor would be unable to respond to our own cannabis-like molecules, which we know are important in keeping us chubby.” While marijuana may initially promote appetite and overeating, in the long run it has the opposite effect because it desensitizes cannabinoid receptors and may even protect against obesity.

So don’t skip the gym and break out the bong just yet: there’s still not enough data to tell whether marijuana, like alcohol, could have health benefits in moderation. Mittleman says the study relied on self-reported use of marijuana, which can be unreliable. However, he points out that since people are more likely to hide drug use than they are to falsely claim it, the findings could even underestimate marijuana’s effects.

(MORE: Marijuana Slims? Why Pot Smokers Are Less Obese)

But whether that’s true, and whether marijuana might be a window into understanding how to best control glucose and insulin to prevent diabetes, isn’t known yet. “It is much too early to say,” says Mittleman, “We need much more research to better understand the biologic responses to marijuana use. We really need more research to allow physicians and patients to make decisions based on solid evidence.” An editorial that accompanied the study also urged government action to reduce barriers to such research.

Even with 18 states now approving marijuana for medical uses, the politics of pot will always overshadow research efforts to understand how cannabinoids work in the brain — or affect disease. But, as Piomelli says, “the [new] study suggests that smoking marijuana [may] protect people against obesity and diabetes.” And following up on that finding could yield new insights into how to tackle one of our biggest public-health issues.

4328 comments
calvinbrock735
calvinbrock735

Your music is amazing. You have some very talented artists. I wish you the best of success. lady24

calvinbrock735
calvinbrock735

I just thought it may be an idea to post incase anyone else was having problems researching but I am a little unsure if I am allowed to put names and addresses on here. 
lady24

brightfuture
brightfuture

This content is written very well. Your use of formatting when making your points makes your observations very clear and easy to understand. Thank you.

 voyance amour gratuite

siskasari
siskasari

in times like this, I feel that your current article very useful for me. by reading the article above I feel happy and want to visit the articles and other interesting writing you.

Regards Cipto Junaedy

brightfuture
brightfuture

The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept.http://deutschegarantiekritik.com/register

brightfuture
brightfuture

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading.

 deutschegarantie bonus

brightfuture
brightfuture

Excellent blog you've got here .. It's difficult to find excellent writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate Individuals like you! Take care!

http://forexconsulting.org/

brightfuture
brightfuture

teams Thanks a lot very much for the high quality and results-oriented help. I won’t think twice to endorse your blog post to anybody who wants and needs support about this area.

brightfuture
brightfuture

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page!

click here

brightfuture
brightfuture

This content is written very well. Your use of formatting when making your points makes your observations very clear and easy to understand. Thank you!

 photographers sydney reviews

brightfuture
brightfuture

Great tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely be very useful for me when I get a chance to start my blog.

 van hire london

calvinbrock735
calvinbrock735

I like your post. It is good to see you verbalize from the heart and clarity on this important subject can be easily observed.  live webcam jobs

calvinbrock735
calvinbrock735

You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site. 
LAPD Cadet Program

brightfuture
brightfuture

it's really nice and meanful. it's really cool blog. Linking is very useful thing.you have really helped lots of people who visit blog and provide them usefull information. sales rep app

brightfuture
brightfuture

voyance-amour-eternel.comI definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work.

brightfuture
brightfuture

click reference 

Great tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely be very useful for me when I get a chance to start my blog.

brightfuture
brightfuture

I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. 

LipiFlow

AdeemAK
AdeemAK

Please accept our thanks and congratulations on the success of your recent series on young scholars in our community. We see so much of the negative side of life in the media that it is refreshing to have a positive, upbeat report on the good things that are happening.
http://searchenginespornfinder.xxxblogspace.com

brightfuture
brightfuture

kitchen island with bar stools 

Excellent information on your blog, thank you for taking the time to share with us. Amazing insight you have on this, it's nice to find a website that details so much information about different artists

brightfuture
brightfuture

Samsung reparation Galaxy

I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work.

brightfuture
brightfuture

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page!

 cruelpoker com

brightfuture
brightfuture

Maurice ConnaughtonVery exciting to study this content.I would like to thank you for the initiatives you had created for composing this amazing content.

brightfuture
brightfuture

First You got a great blog .I will be interested in more similar topics. i see you got really very useful topics.

Free money now

aileen123
aileen123

He delighted Walter with the gift of a Ping-Pong table, installed on the porch, and a source of my most cherished memories.
voli cuba

brightfuture
brightfuture

Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.

best pet shop online now

brightfuture
brightfuture

This content is written very well. Your use of formatting when making your points makes your observations very clear and easy to understand. Thank you.

electrician lichfield

brightfuture
brightfuture

Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.

places to buy pets near me

brightfuture
brightfuture

Italy food and wineI recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading.

menpcih
menpcih

I have subscribed for your blog. as i have read a very informative post on arthritis and now on diabetes. Diabetes is now become a very big challenge for the world. every 4th person is suffering this. now the drug like marijuana plays a vital role in helping patients. 


http://womenstyl.com/10-best-selena-gomez-uses-dresses-sweet/

UmerFarooq1
UmerFarooq1

This is website to invested time on .I simply discovered your glib blog and craved to say that I have truly appreciated perusing your exceptionally elegantly composed blog entries. bluthochdruck senken

jammyyy
jammyyy

Easily, the article is actually the best topic on this registry related issue. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your next updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the fantasti c lucidity in your writing. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Buffalo Personal Injury Attorney

johnb6174
johnb6174

whether that’s true, and whether marijuana might be a window into understanding how to best control glucose and insulin to prevent diabetes, isn’t known yet.

Japanom http://tonyjaaisdabest.jimdo.com/

jammyyy
jammyyy

I would also motivate just about every person to save this web page for any favorite assistance to assist posted the appearance. jntu ebooks