Each year, diabetes affects millions of people and families around the world.
According to the World Health Organization, the condition affects up to 8.5 million people, a number which has risen from 4.7 million in 1980.
In the U.S. alone, an estimated 9.4 percent of the population has diabetes.
Treated with insulin injections and monitored by daily finger pricks, it’s no surprise that both patients and researchers are looking into new diabetes aids.
You might be surprised to learn that a growing body of evidence suggests that medical cannabis may have a role to play in diabetes care.
Without further ado, here are 9 facts you never knew about cannabis and diabetes:
1. Cannabis consumers have better fasting insulin levels
A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that cannabis consumers had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels than non-consumers.
The study looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2010, which included 4,657 men and women.
579 of the individuals currently consumed cannabis. 1,975 were past consumers.
As luck would have it (or science rather), these cannabis consumers scored better on fasting insulin tests.
High levels of fasting insulin in the blood is a hallmark sign of type 2 diabetes.
Though, other lifestyle and environmental factors may also contribute to these results.
2. Cannabis consumers have lower insulin resistance
One of the reasons type 2 diabetes progresses is because receptors on fat cells become increasingly resistant to insulin.
Insulin is the hormone that shuttles glucose (blood sugar) into fat cells for storage.
The same 2013 study discovered that cannabis consumers had 17 percent lower HOMA-IR, which is a test for insulin resistance.
This means that, for some reason, those in the cannabis-consuming group showed reduced markers for diabetes.
3. Cannabis consumers have smaller waistlines
Last but not least, the American Journal of Medicine study found that cannabis consumers also had smaller waist circumferences than non-consumers.
This is important because overall waist circumference is used as a marker of diabetes.
This is the third correlation between cannabis consumption and reduced diabetes risks.
4. Cannabis is thought to help with autoimmune diabetes
Here is another interesting insight into cannabis and diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system begins to attack the pancreas.
A review paper published in Future Medical Chemistry cites evidence that treatment with isolated cannabis compounds reduced the inflammation and destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas of rodent models.
Thus, cannabis compounds may be useful in autoimmune diabetes.
5. Type 2 diabetes is less prevalent in cannabis consumers
In 2012, researchers crunched data on the diabetes risks of cannabis-consuming adults. The results, published in the British Medical Journal, found that cannabis consumers had lower risks of diabetes.
The study also found that type 2 diabetes was less prevalent in those who had consumed cannabis.
6. Cannabis compounds have already been studied in diabetes patients
You may not know this, but cannabis-based drugs have already been studied in diabetes patients.
A phase 2 clinical trial of a pharmaceutical containing cannabis compounds was tested by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British biopharmaceutical company.
The trial contained 62 patients with type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, the trial ultimately did not reach the desired results.
Yet, the patients did see improvements in fasting insulin levels, blood glucose levels, and insulin response.
7. THCV may help diabetic patients
One of the cannabis cannabinoids included in the pharmaceutical drug was tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).
THCV is a lesser-known cannabinoid abundant in some of the tropical and African cannabis varieties.
Rodent research published in 2013 discovered that treatment with THCV had a dose-dependent response on blood glucose.
The more THCV, the less glucose. It also improved insulin sensitivity in the rodents.
8. CBD may also help diabetic patients
Cannabidiol (CBD) was the second cannabis compound tested in GW’s pharmaceutical drug.
Fortunately, CBD is much easier to find.
In rodent studies, CBD has been found to promote weight loss and suppress appetite.
This is important, as obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
9. Cannabis alters gut microbiome
Now, this finding might just be the most bizarre.
As it turns out, THC treatment in obese mice transformed gut microbial communities into ones that more similarly resembled lean mice.
Other studies have found that taking microbes from obese mice and giving them to antibiotic-treated mice caused the latter to gain weight.
When antibiotic-treated mice were given microbes from lean mice, the former remained lean.
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