Diabetes is a dangerous condition that is affecting Americans in epic proportions. In the last 10 years alone, the number of people affected rose by nearly 50 percent. This amounts to over 29 million Americans living with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is often related to a sedentary lifestyle with minimal exercise and the consumption of too much sugar or too many carbohydrates which break down into sugars. The World Health Organization is predicting that the number of people living with diabetes will double by 2030. Already at epidemic proportions, this condition kills more people than AIDS and breast cancer combined. The condition can lead to blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke and Americans spend over $245 billion a year trying to treat the condition. For this reason, researchers have been investigating the connection between marijuana and diabetes.
The Primary Cause of Diabetes
Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar or blood glucose levels are too high. Glucose is a main source of energy for the body and it’s derived directly from food. What you eat gets directly converted into glucose. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that helps your cells to absorb that glucose to give you energy. If your cells can’t absorb the glucose, then it stays in your blood and your blood sugar level is raised. If your body isn’t able to produce any or enough insulin or just simply doesn’t use the insulin in a healthy way, then your blood sugar level rises. This is essentially how diabetes strikes.
Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are both caused by problematic insulin levels. Type 1 diabetes, which usually begins when a person is a child or young adult, is when your body cannot produce any insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, which usually develops in adulthood although it could develop anytime, your body struggles to produce insulin or it may produce insulin but your cells refuse to process it, thus becoming insulin resistant. If they won’t absorb the insulin, they also can’t absorb the glucose. This is the most common type of diabetes diagnosed and it appears to be on the rise.
How Marijuana and Diabetes Can Relate for Positive Results
For some time now, researchers have been evaluating the relationship between marijuana and diabetes and have found that cannabis does seem to be very effective at treating and possibly even preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes. The American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC) did a 2005 study on the relationship between marijuana and diabetes. They said that anecdotal surveys indicated that marijuana seemed to stabilize blood sugar levels. It was also such an effective anti-inflammatory that it served to reduce arterial inflammation which is often brought on by diabetes. It is effective at treating some of the painful symptoms of diabetes including “restless leg syndrome” which can affect the sleep of many people with diabetes.
“Cannabis is also neuroprotective,” explains the AAMC website. “It is believed that much of neuropathy comes from the inflammation of nerves caused by glycoproteins in the blood that deposit in peripheral tissues and trigger an immune response. Cannabis helps protect the nerve covering (myelin sheath) from inflammatory attack. Cannabis also lessens the pain of neuropathy by activating receptors in the body and brain. Some components of cannabis (perhaps cannibidiol) act as anti-spasmodic agents similar to the far more toxic anti-convulsants like Neurontin. This action of cannabis helps relieve diabetic muscle cramps and GI upset.”
The study also revealed that cannabis helps to keep blood vessels open and improve circulation. It works very well to improve blood flow and over time it will lower blood pressure in the user. Both actions are extremely beneficial when it comes to treating diabetes.
Evaluating the Body’s Fasting Insulin
A 5 year study published in 2013 in the American Journal of Medicine also found that marijuana and diabetes had a powerful relationship. The study evaluated 4,657 participants. Of these 2,554 had used marijuana at some point, 579 were current users and 2,103 had never used the plant. The researchers measured the amount of fasting insulin in the body. If the number was too low it could be seen as indicative of an issue producing insulin but if the results were too high it was seen as an indicator that there is insulin resistance and the insulin isn’t being used, creating a higher blood sugar level in the body.
Tests showed that the current users had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels than those who hadn’t used marijuana. Those who were not current users also had lower insulin levels but not as low as those who were still consuming it. The current users had lower insulin resistance and fasting insulin, showing that diabetes could be prevented by those who consumed marijuana.
The Insulin Resistance Level of Cannabis Users
Insulin resistance (IR) is the rejection of insulin by the cells. Modern science allows for the measuring of the body’s insulin resistance levels. The authors of the 2013 study revealed that those who have never used cannabis had an IR level of 2.5. Those who had used it in the past had an IR level of 2.2 and those who were still consuming it had an IR of 1.8. Blood sugar levels were lower in current users with a mean blood sugar level of 99.7 mg/dL, compared with 100.6 mg/dL for past users and 103.5 mg/dL for those who have never used the plant. Nobody exactly knows what causes the reduction, however, and much more research is still needed before the full relationship between marijuana and diabetes can be understood.
Marijuana and diabetes are not often put together by many but the research indicates that it may be a key plant to study, to find a way to curb the epidemic and treat the millions suffering with the condition. Much of marijuana’s healing ability comes from its ability to trigger the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that governs healthy homeostasis in the body. It affects blood pressure, appetite, sleep, mood and so much more. Much more research is needed to acquire the full benefits and understand how the plant can work as a powerful medicine.