Marijuana, the controversial drug making all the headlines lately, could in fact be the next major drug in fighting diabetes. According to a study published by the American Journal of Medicine suggests that chemical compounds found in cannabis may help to control blood sugar, leading to a lower risk of diabetes.
Three separate studies have shown that marijuana does more to your weight than simply cause the munchies. These studies have found that regular users are significantly less likely to be obese and typically have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI). This counteracts the well known munchies stereotype where users appetites call for greater caloric ingestion while on the drug. Based on these findings, one can conclude that marijuana use can play a role in boosting one’s metabolism.
Associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School Murray Mittleman supports this point. As the lead for the American Journal of Medicine, he noted that “the most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers.” His findings didn’t stop there, as he also observed that “[users] fasting insulin levels were lower, and they appeared to be less resistant to the insulin produced in their body to maintain a normal blood-sugar level.”
The insulin resistance is the big sign that the drug could hold some value in diabetes prevention. Insulin resistance is considered to be a precursor to diabetes. After the data was compiled, lifestyle factors outside of smoking were taken into account so that the results would be more accurate. With other factors considered, the data concluded that marijuana smokers had 17% lower levels of insulin resistance than non-smokers.
Higher levels of good cholesterol were observed in both regular users and former users. This trend also lead to slimmer waistlines for these groups over their non-smoking cohorts. An average of 1.5 inches was the average difference between the respective groups’ belt sizes. Smokers averaged a 36.9 inch waist while non-smokers came in with a 38.3 inch average.
Skeptics of the results site that other factors could be playing a role in skewing the results. When talking about the waistline a critic of the results, Dr. Stephen Sidney from the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California pointed out that marijuana users are far more likely to also use tobacco products. Tobacco use could be responsible for the smaller waistlines, as many studies have shown that tobacco users are typically slimmer than non-smokers.
The study was conducted from 2005-2010 and included over 4600 men and women. Over 48% of participants reported smoking marijuana at some point in their lives with 12% being current users. Factors controlled for in the study were things like age, gender, physical activity and tobacco and alcohol use.
Researchers acknowledge that more studies would be needed to make any concrete conclusions about the relationship between marijuana use and diabetes prevention, however this study shows that a correlation between the two is certainly possible. Depending on self-reported marijuana use can be unreliable, so a more controlled study would be needed to draw any serious conclusions.
The medical benefits of marijuana use have been a regular in political debates lately. 18 states now have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. Glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, pain relief, and appetite building are some of the more common current medical uses for the drug.
Colorado and Washington made headlines for their legalization of recreational marijuana last year. American perceptions have about the drug have been changing, more and more people are supporting legislation rather than punishment for use of the drug, often citing the medical benefits it has.
As we continue to research the medical benefits of the drug, more potential uses and benefits emerge. If marijuana can continue to shake its image as a purely recreational substance in the minds of its opponents and prove its medical merit, there’s no telling what else this plant has the ability to help us with.
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The Guardian Express