Throughout the years, the image of the stoner has been associated to foods such as pizza and burgers. The increase in appetite, more popularly called the “munchies”, often hits pot users within a short time after consuming the plant. You would think that with all that eating, people who smoke weed would be in danger of becoming obese or getting diabetes but, as it turns out, this is not the case. Several studies have shown that medicinal cannabis can be taken to help users stay slim, have lower body-mass-index measurements and have a lower risk for getting diabetes. This all remains true, even though it turns out medicinal cannabis users consume more calories.
Marijuana as a Metabolic Aid
A 2013 study led by Murray Mittleman, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, was published in the American Journal of Medicine. The study looked at more than 4,600 men and women who participated in the Nutrition Examination Survey between 2005 and 2010 and studied their marijuana habits, factoring it into their age, sex, physical activity, income, alcohol and cigarette intake. 12 percent smoked regularly and 48 percent had smoked at least once in their lives. What the study uncovered was the marijuana intake helped the men and women to metabolize carbohydrates.
“The most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers,” says Mittleman. “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.”
High Patients with Small Waistlines
The study revealed that marijuana users’ had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels and 17 percent less insulin resistance. In people with Type II Diabetes, these levels are usually high and they are also connected to obesity. Researchers found that the marijuana users also had higher levels of high density lipoprotein, which is the good cholesterol that wards off heart disease. In general, the current users had smaller waistlines by 1.5 inches on average than the non-users or non-active users.
The Mystery of Cannabis and Caloric Intake
The results are quite astounding, given the diabetes, obesity and heart disease epidemic in the United States. Medicinal cannabis could help to save thousands of lives. Yet scientists still aren’t sure exactly how all these results occur. Studies indicate that the cannabinoid receptors in the brain are strongly involved with appetite and metabolism but how it works in relation to caloric intake and insulin isn’t clear as yet.
A Theory of Weakening Cannabinoid Receptors
One theory suggested by another researcher, Daniele Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, is that the effects occur by weakening the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The prolonged use of marijuana makes the cannabinoid receptors lose sensitivity. According to Piomelli, “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.”
This effect is evidenced by an experimental drug from Europe, which blocked the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and prevented natural cannabinoids from activating them. Recipients of the drug, called rimonabant, significantly lost weight although the weight loss was accompanied by psychiatric side effects such as risk of suicide. For this reason, it was pulled from the market, although the results support Piomelli’s theory. Another compound other than the commonly known THC and CBD may be responsible. Cannabidiol also impacts the cannabinoid receptors, but works differently to THC and CBD.
Medicinal cannabis use seems to be linked to a decreased sensitivity in the brain’s cannabinoid receptors but the details aren’t clear yet. A lot more research is needed to get the best understanding of how the process works and how to apply medicinal cannabis to helping the many across the country struggling with obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Medicinal Cannabis Patch Developed for Diabetic Pain
In the meantime Cannabis Science, which is a company that specializes in making medicinal cannabis products, announced that they will be creating 2 new pharmaceuticals that are designed to help pain connected to diabetic neuropathy and fibromyalgia. The interesting thing about the new products is that they will be made available as a transdermal patch. This means that patients are able to get their correct dose slowly over a long period of time. With oils, pills and other delivery systems, the dose is less controlled and unable to sustain in the optimum ways over time.
The patches would deliver the CBD compound found in marijuana in a controlled way. Unlike THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, CBD does not produce a high. Yet it is still packed with medicinal uses that are helpful in a wide range of conditions. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound with strong pain relieving properties which makes it an excellent medicine for treating people with diabetes who suffer with peripheral neuropathy. It can be used to treat a wide range of painful conditions that are connected to inflammatory conditions. The patch coupled with smoking or vaping marijuana could help to completely alleviate sufferers of diabetes.
With 28 states and D.C. having legalized medicinal cannabis in the U.S., medical research on the plant has become increasingly important. The more we are able to understand, the better our treatments will be, with correct marijuana strain and dosage for each illness documented. It was illegal to conduct government approved research on medicinal marijuana up until August this year. The DEA were asked to change the Schedule I classification on marijuana that makes it federally illegal and considered a high risk drug with no medicinal value. Due to the fact that there has been no ability to produce government approved research to back up claims of the plant’s medicinal value, the DEA did not change the classification. They did, however, produce a system for researchers who want to study marijuana to apply for an official permit. This change could ultimately lead to having a better understanding of the plant in order to make the most use of it.