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Marijuana: The Next Diabetes Drug?

Health & Wellness  (tags: AlternativeMed, cancer, diet, disease, drugs, food, health, healthcare, investigation, medicine, nutrition, prevention, research, safety, science, society, study, treatment )

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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-->

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Kit B (276)
Monday October 7, 2013, 7:17 pm
Photo credit: 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.”

****Watch video here at VISIT SITE****

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.

By: Maia Szalavitz | Health time |

Jason S (50)
Monday October 7, 2013, 8:27 pm
Good posting, thanks

James Merit (144)
Monday October 7, 2013, 11:36 pm
Great info, thank you.

Suzan F (137)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 9:29 am
Oh, it's my lucky day! It's too late for me, as far as preventing diabetes goes, but for the rest of the details, I am in great shape! Once again, MMJ is proving to be better than medicos previously thought.

. (0)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 11:03 am
Aside from all of his faults, Gov. Christie has long approved dospensing medicinal maijuana in NJ. He has been waiting over 2 years for tje government to tell him how to regulate it.
This is not a Congressional issue, this is a direct Obama issue.

. (0)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 11:04 am
Lord, teach me to type.....

Kit B (276)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 11:07 am

No Allan, this is not an Obama issue, he would like to decriminalize Marijuana. Congress will not even allow the bill on the floor. Please do some research first. I know you do not like Obama but there are many good things he has tried to do but has been blocked by Congress.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 11:09 am

My thanks to MJM for this article, he is better than a library on this issue.

Jonathan Harper (0)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 12:42 pm

Birgit W (160)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 1:14 pm
Interesting, thank you Kit.

Judith E (402)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 2:31 pm
Great article. Thanks, Kit!

Karen Chestney (112)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 2:52 pm
Thanks for this informative article. It seems "POT" is good for lots--of--stuff !!!

Sheila D (194)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 3:46 pm
Don't think it's legal in MN yet but when it is, I'll be sure to check with my doc for a RX - if it helps weight loss and high cholesterol, prevents diabetes, what else does it do?? All these years wasted on negative press. Thanks Kit.

Lois Jordan (63)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 5:07 pm
Noted. Thanks for this info, Kit. Looks like Big Pharma takes another jab on this one.....ooooh, a heavy blow right in the breadbasket. lol

Michael Carney (217)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 6:55 pm
Yet another reason to light up!!!

Inge Bjorkman (202)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 1:01 am
Light it up and get high so flees diabetes away, what a dream life.

and a little bit of Love

Lindsay K (6)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 4:52 am
Interesting, thanks

Past Member (0)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 5:01 am
Scientific Research and Real Facts about the Cannabinoids in Cannabis.

Cannabis Revealed: Why Is Marijuana Illegal?

Past Member (0)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 5:03 am
Thank you Kit.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 5:25 am
Kit, I saw this and nearly dropped my bong!

Poll Finds Texans Ready To Legalize Marijuana


Kit B (276)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 5:59 am

Don't drop that bong just yet, it's being talked about, there is a bill but it has yet to make it to the floor of the legislature. I remain hopeful but, not overly hopeful.

divergent revolution (309)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 8:37 am
parkinsins, glaucoma, cancer protection
pain relief, and of course anxiety,because stress produces disease
and now type 2 diabetes, wow
22 states ans counting, all prohibited drugs started as medicine, even tobacco (to calm nerves)...
I have hopes of seeing the deficit go surplus,when the Federal government sees how much revenue Colorado produces once implemeted,and running
I've been saying this for decades, legalization = no more deficit,aside from health promotion
thanks Kit

Suzan F (137)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 8:51 am
Now, it appears that it also helps destroy certain types of tumors, in addition to all the previously mentioned benefits. Unfortunately, here in Texas, I think it'll be a L-O-N-G time before this state comes around. I've been a Type 1 diabetic for 37+ years, & people wonder how I have managed to keep all my toes intact & why I'm not on dialysis. Hmm...go figure! ;-)

Kit B (276)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 8:51 am

It seems to have the ability to both promote and prevent cancer from growing. It's also used for seizures and Alzheimer's this is very long. I submit these articles to try to help diminish the crazy propaganda out there. You do not have to smoke or get high to gain the health benefits of Marijuana.

Yeah, we can tax it and then like cigarettes something that costs about thirty cents to produce will become cost prohibitive to most people. We also need to keep it out of the hands of Monsanto and other corporations that will foul the plant. Allow people to grow an amount for personal use in their own back yard on the their patios.

Marigolds grown at the base around the house will keep out most bugs, we don't tax that.

pam w (139)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 9:26 am
After reading your earlier post, Kit, I think we can EASILY get marijuana decriminalized, simply by proving that IT INCREASES PENIS SIZE!

Kit B (276)
Wednesday October 9, 2013, 10:16 am

I admit I had not considered that, Pam. Now that you mentioned though....when in the history of human governments has subterfuge not been used?

marie C (163)
Thursday October 10, 2013, 3:27 pm
Noted thanks Kit

John De Avalon (36)
Friday October 11, 2013, 1:44 am
Food for thought
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