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.

1515 comments
SandraBJurgens
SandraBJurgens

Thanks for sharing the post.. parents are worlds best person in each lives of individual..they need or must succeed to sustain needs of the family. cheap car insurance quote

AfiaKhan
AfiaKhan

Thanks for a wonderful share. Your article has importaciones your hard work and experience you have got in This field. Brilliant reading .I love it.emotional support dog

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

This web site is really a walk-through for all of the info you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you’ll definitely discover it.  Bitcoin

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

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

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

I visited your site & after visiting i found that it is very informational for everyone you have done really a great job thank you. facebook cover

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

such an interesting article here Afatogel.com Bandar Terbesar Situs Togel Online Terpercaya. I was searching for something like that for quite a long time and at last I have found it here.  Edmonton fluoride

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

I was in vital need to get some information on this topic and thanks to you, I've got that! Thanks, once again! 
Online shopping

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

Such bathrooms can still be enhanced by providing better finishes such as sanitary fittings of a higher quality, apart from its layout, noted Mr Francis Koh, group chief executive of Koh Brothers Group.  Abnehmen ohne Sport

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.  100% Pure Garcinia Cambogia

IvonneBHatch
IvonneBHatch

This is a wonderful article, Given so much info in it, These type of articles keeps the users interest in the website, and keep on sharing more ... good luck. http://smokinggone.tumblr.com

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

Thanks for a wonderful share. Your article has importaciones your hard work and experience you have got in This field. Brilliant reading .I love it.  South Africa Golf Tours

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

I have to voice my passion for your sharpness in writing and giving acknowledges to people. The post should have magnificent guidance on this important matter.  limo hire London

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

You have a real ability for writing unique content. I like how you think and the way you represent your views in this article. I agree with your way of thinking.  Adseed

LunaAnderw
LunaAnderw

platform lifts

Stair lifts are widely adopted as solutions for those of us who have difficulty getting up and down the stairs. They are called many different names such as stair chairs or stairway lifts, but they all refer to the same product, the stairlift. Most stair lift buyers are simply the elderly among us who need to conserve their energy, and make life a little more comfortable. Our stair lifts have been manufactured specifically for ease of installation. A typical homeowner can perform a self installation in less than three hours using common tools.

http://stair-lifts-101.com

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

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.  υναικείες Γόβες

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

Thanks for sharing the post.. parents are worlds best person in each lives of individual..they need or must succeed to sustain needs of the family.  παπούτσια

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

I must say that a succesful family owned business in this day and age is a very refreshing sight ! As well as this is a very refreshing site.  bet365 casino

AfiaKhan
AfiaKhan

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.dr drum

AfiaKhan
AfiaKhan

I most likely appreciating each and every bit of it. It is an incredible site and decent impart. I need to much obliged. Great employment! You all do an incredible blog, and have some extraordinary substance. Keep doing awesome.bathroom remodel ideas

AfiaKhan
AfiaKhan

Well, this got me thinking what other workouts are good for those of us who find ourselves on the road or have limited equipment options.online recruitment software

SandraBJurgens
SandraBJurgens

Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.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!  
unlock her legs download

AfiaKhan
AfiaKhan

Your blogs further more each else volume is so entertaining further serviceable It appoints me befall retreat encore. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.libertarian

LunaAnderw
LunaAnderw

my printable coupons com

Welcome to Our Online Reviews! Here you can read reviews of many of the top advertisers on the internet today. Also, we offer great savings on purchases in the form of Coupons and Promotion Codes.  http://ouronlinereviews.wordpress.com

AfiaKhan
AfiaKhan

I'm impressed, I must say. Very rarely do I come across a blog that's both informative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. Your blog is important; the issue is something that not enough people are talking intelligently about.op

SandraBJurgens
SandraBJurgens

Frokostordning Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work! diet plan

AfiaKhan
AfiaKhan

This post is really magnificent. I really like this post. It is one of the best posts that I’ve read in a long time. Thanks a lot for this really good post. I really appreciate it!get the look

blog_comment
blog_comment

Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.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! Forta


PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

Your blog provided us with valuable to work with. Each & every tips of your post are awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep blogging..  Shell Marine products

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.  advertising agency nh

blog_comment
blog_comment

Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.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! 

awesome website

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

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!  Plumber in Peabody MA

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

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

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

Your blog provided us with valuable to work with. Each & every tips of your post are awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep blogging..  tamashebi

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

It appears as though spent lots of time and effort in your blog. I’ve saved it and i’m searching toward reading through new articles.  buy cigarettes

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

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.  curly haircuts for women

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

Very exciting to study this content.I would like to thank you for the initiatives you had created for composing this amazing content.  foods to lose weight

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog!!!!  healthy fast food

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

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!  makeup styles

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

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.  cleaning makeup brushes

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

When CMM Automotive Mechanics carries out a major service we check, test, replace and repair the required parts to make your car feel like new again.  cute makeup ideas

PrinceShaikh
PrinceShaikh

I really appreciate that you wrote this article and shared some really good information on this specific topic. I was in vital need to get some information on this topic and thanks to you, I've got that! Thanks, once again!  natural makeup looks