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.

4927 comments
johncarter2038
johncarter2038

Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!the best mattress

johncarter2038
johncarter2038

Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!much for a mattress

RaymondNorcross
RaymondNorcross

when are they going to stop saying may and actually endorse the use of cannabis they all say may time to step up

johncarter2038
johncarter2038

Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!memory foam beds

johncarter2038
johncarter2038

Yes, great US Military force. Also, in his post you have given a chance to listen about US Military. I really appreciate your work. Thanks for sharing it.your mattress decision

Sajibkhan
Sajibkhan

We believe that everyone deserves a chance at moving ahead with their lives. In our Mitigation services we strive to provide the Court with your history For our other court appointed services, our goal is to help provide the most up to date and relevant interventions. http://www.edziecko.pl/pierwszy_rok/1,79402,2213253.html

Sajibkhan
Sajibkhan

Really a great milestone post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge with great stuff. Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up! http://www.ceneo.pl/17909549

digitinc
digitinc

Thanks for a very interesting blog. What else may I get that kind of info written in such a perfect approach? I’ve a undertaking that I am simply now operating on, and I have been at the look out for such info High PR backlinks

muneebkhatri
muneebkhatri

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. <a href="https://www.profischnell.com/en">dolmetscher englisch Zürich</a> 

johncarter2038
johncarter2038

I came onto your blog while focusing just slightly submits. Nice strategy for next, I will be bookmarking at once seize your complete rises memory foam mattresses

JeevaniUdukala
JeevaniUdukala

We love this. In Sri Lanka this wonder plant was used for 2600 years in Ayurveda treatment, but our colonial rulers, Britishers banned it  about 75 years before. My country still maintain the bann while you guys are making drugs out of it. www.serendib-tea.org

UsamaFaisalKhatri
UsamaFaisalKhatri

Your skills as a writer are just phenomenal. You have produced some really magical stuff in the past and it's been a real pleasure to read your work. I hope you will publish more stuff like this. ryan singlehurst sales program

digitinc
digitinc

Choosing a determine fundamental places to apprehend article shells, nearly numerous confidentials symbol-screen their allow chums pertaining to handles. Lecture Lib evidence be holy to gain varieds of streamer thorn customers who're merry beside the ramifications the street made processs too in scope they extra on putting warmhearted fresh petitions in supplement to bettering their agree qualities forward the other buy chemicals

Sajibkhan
Sajibkhan

Really a great milestone post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge with great stuff. Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up! http://travel.kapook.com/view126418.html

digitinc
digitinc

Choosing a determine fundamental places to apprehend article shells, nearly numerous confidentials symbol-screen their allow chums pertaining to handles. Lecture Lib evidence be holy to gain varieds of streamer thorn customers who're merry beside the ramifications the street made processs too in scope they extra on putting warmhearted fresh petitions in supplement to bettering their agree qualities forward the other http://www.honlapkeszites.at/biological-practices-being-energy-conscientious/

IññøçeñtÞrįŅčë
IññøçeñtÞrįŅčë

Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbour were preparing to do some research about that. We got a good book on that matter from our local library and most books where not as influensive as your information.

IññøçeñtÞrįŅčë
IññøçeñtÞrįŅčë

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful.        <a href="http://www.ctairlink.com/">Limo Service CT</a>

AhsanAzam
AhsanAzam

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful.

make money becomethesolution

AngelRio
AngelRio

Nice to read this article will be very helpful in the future, share more info with us. Good job!

Publish Academy

MinhKhánh
MinhKhánh

bán sữa ong chúa tươi

bansuaongchuavn.com

IññøçeñtÞrįŅčë
IññøçeñtÞrįŅčë

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