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May 15, 2013

Could marijuana use help combat type-2 diabetes and even obesity?

The question in the title of post is prompted by this press release discussing new research findings published now in The American Journal of Medicine.  Here are excerpts from the press release:

Regular marijuana use is associated with favorable indices related to diabetic control, say investigators.  They found that current marijuana users had significantly lower fasting insulin and were less likely to be insulin resistant, even after excluding patients with a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. Their findings are reported in the current issue of The American Journal of Medicine....

A multicenter research team analyzed data obtained during the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) between 2005 and 2010.  They studied data from 4,657 patients who completed a drug use questionnaire.  Of these, 579 were current marijuana users, 1,975 had used marijuana in the past but were not current users, and 2,103 had never inhaled or ingested marijuana.  Fasting insulin and glucose were measured via blood samples following a nine hour fast, and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) was calculated to evaluate insulin resistance.

Participants who reported using marijuana in the past month had lower levels of fasting insulin and HOMA-IR and higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). These associations were weaker among those who reported using marijuana at least once, but not in the past thirty days, suggesting that the impact of marijuana use on insulin and insulin resistance exists during periods of recent use.  Current users had 16% lower fasting insulin levels than participants who reported never having used marijuana in their lifetimes.

Large waist circumference is linked to diabetes risk.  In the current study there were also significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences.

“Previous epidemiologic studies have found lower prevalence rates of obesity and diabetes mellitus in marijuana users compared to people who have never used marijuana, suggesting a relationship between cannabinoids and peripheral metabolic processes, but ours is the first study to investigate the relationship between marijuana use and fasting insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance,” says lead investigator Murray A. Mittleman, MD, DrPH, of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston....

Although people who smoke marijuana have higher average caloric intake levels than non-users, marijuana use has been associated with lower body-mass index (BMI) in two previous surveys.  “The mechanisms underlying this paradox have not been determined and the impact of regular marijuana use on insulin resistance and cardiometabolic risk factors remains unknown,” says coauthor Hannah Buettner.

The investigators acknowledge that data on marijuana use were self-reported and may be subject to underestimation or denial of illicit drug use.  However, they point out, underestimation of drug use would likely yield results biased toward observing no association.

Editor-in-Chief Joseph S. Alpert, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, comments, “These are indeed remarkable observations that are supported, as the authors note, by basic science experiments that came to similar conclusions.

“We desperately need a great deal more basic and clinical research into the short- and long-term effects of marijuana in a variety of clinical settings such as cancer, diabetes, and frailty of the elderly,” continues Alpert.  “I would like to call on the NIH and the DEA to collaborate in developing policies to implement solid scientific investigations that would lead to information assisting physicians in the proper use and prescription of THC in its synthetic or herbal form.”

I guess this research could mean a whole bunch of fat guys might be now able to reasonably claim a medical need for marijuana.  (And given that New Jersey is one of the states which has legalized medical marijuana, I wonder if Gov Chris Christie now wishes he had heard of this research before he had his recent lap-band surgery.)

May 15, 2013 at 07:34 PM | Permalink


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As I qualify under at least one of these criteria, I really hope that Mr. Bill doesn't head-up the charge against further research in this important area. We all can use a mellower retirement.

Posted by: alan chaset | May 15, 2013 10:51:03 PM

alan --

Fear not. I have lots more important stuff to worry about than pot, not that this fact differentiates me from the rest of the human race.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 16, 2013 12:09:51 AM

Not if the feds have anything to say about it. Because marijuana is bad, m'kay?

Posted by: C.E. | May 16, 2013 12:38:44 AM

That cannabis remains a Schedule I Controlled Substances Act, because it supposedly has "no currently accepted medical use" causes untold misery to thousands of defendants serving needlessly lengthy prison sentences. The refusal to change the classification in spite of much evidence of beneficent medical use illustrates the hypocrisy and sanctimony of the criminal justice system and brings it into disrepute.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | May 16, 2013 10:42:11 AM

Even apart from this article, many states recognize the medical benefit from cannabis with respect to easing pain from cancer, glaucoma, etc--and permit its use for that purpose. So I quite agree with Mr. Levine: cannabis should no longer be a Schedule 1 controlled substance--and should have been remvoed from that schedule long ago. The government's refusal to change it (and the U.S. Attorneys refusal to support that change) is willful blindness and inexcusable.

Posted by: onlooker 1 | May 16, 2013 4:27:59 PM

Mr. Bill Otis,

While I disagree with some of your positions, I respect your intelligence and integrity. That said, do you agree that marijuana has been shown to have at least some medical benefit? E.G. easing pain from cancer, etc? If so, can you not use your no doubt considerable influence and contacts among conservative thinkers and possibly even DEA officials, to lobby for a removal of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II?

Posted by: powerless | May 17, 2013 12:09:13 PM

powerless --

THC has been shown to have medical value in some cases. It is available in Marinol, a prescription drug that's been around for many years.

Smoked marijuana is not medicine for several reasons. First, smoking is overall dreadful for your health, no matter what the substance you're using to torture your lungs. Second, smoked marijuana contains many more carcinogens than smoked tobacco. Third, smoked marijuana is not controlled for purity, adulteration or dosage.

Given that THC is already available, and in a form safer than smoked pot is or is likely to become, legitimate medical needs can be met without changing pot's legal status.

In addition, experience in California, America's largest and oldest "medical marijuana" state, has shown that the program is rampant with fraud. The problem is so bad that over 200 localities have closed down these "clinics" or "dispensaries," which have turned out to be thinly disguised head shops.

Increased access to pot will lead to more medical (and other) problems, not fewer, and I am therefore opposed to changes that would lead to such an increase.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 17, 2013 12:29:26 PM

At 64 yrs I completely reversed my Diabetes Type 2 by:

1 Stop eating foods with "Trans Fats".
2 Replenish the fat membrane in my cells with natural essential fats from a fistful of Walnuts per day.
3 Do for 7 months ... my DT2 completely reversed.
Wrote a short eBooklet (10 pages) free on Kindle Prime called

"The Walnut Cure for Diabetes Type2" Hope it helps someone.

Posted by: Raymond Neville | Dec 11, 2013 3:59:51 PM

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