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  1. Mick Mouse
    Toking up may help marijuana users stay slim and lower their risks of developing diabetes, according to the latest studies, which suggests that cannabis compounds may help lower blood sugar.

    Although marijuana has a well-deserved reputation for increasing appetite via what stoners call “the munchies,” the new research, which was published in the American Journal of Medicine, is not the first to find that the drug has a two-faced relationship to weight. Three prior studies have shown that marijuana users are less likely to be obese, have a lower risk for diabetes and have lower body-mass-index measurements. And these trends occurred despite the fact that they seemed to take in more calories.

    Why? “The most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers,” says Murray Mittleman, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the study. “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.”

    The research included over 4,600 men and women participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2005 and 2010. Among them, 48% had smoked marijuana at least once in their lives, and 12% were current cannabis smokers. The authors controlled for other factors like age, sex, income, alcohol use, cigarette smoking and physical activity that could also affect diabetes risk.

    Even after these adjustments, the current marijuana users showed fasting insulin levels that were 16% lower than those of former or never users, along with a 17% reduction in another measure of insulin resistance as well. Higher levels on both tests are associated with Type 2 diabetes, which is linked with obesity. Marijuana users also had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein, the so-called good cholesterol, which can protect against heart disease. And the regular smokers also boasted smaller waistlines: on average, they were 1.5 in. (3.8 cm) slimmer than the former users and those who had never smoked cannabis.

    Researchers don’t yet know how to explain these correlations — and since the study was not a controlled trial, it’s not clear whether marijuana or some other factor in marijuana users’ lifestyles actually accounted for the beneficial effects. Studies showed, however, that the cannabinoid brain receptors affected by marijuana are deeply involved in appetite and metabolism. But the exact details of how the compound alters the relationship between appetite, caloric intake and insulin response isn’t obvious yet.

    One clue, however, may lie in the effects of a diet drug that was developed to have the opposite effect that marijuana has on the brain. That drug, rimonabant, produced significant weight loss and a drop in fasting insulin levels by affecting certain cannabinoid receptors in the exact opposite way that THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, does. This action is complex: rimonabant doesn’t simply block the receptor and keep the natural cannabinoids from activating it. Instead, while the natural cannabinoids elevate the normal level of activity already going on in the system, rimonabant lowers it so the result is precisely the reverse of activating the receptor naturally. However, because of psychiatric side effects like increasing suicide risk, rimonabant was pulled from the European market and never approved in the U.

    How could both marijuana and a compound that has the opposite effect of pot act on the same brain receptors and lead to weight loss? Natural marijuana includes many different potentially active compounds, and one of them — rather than THC — could be responsible for this effect. One potential candidate is a substance called cannabidiol, which also affects cannabinoid receptors, but in a different way from the way THC or rimonabant does.

    Another possibility involves tolerance: repeated use of a drug can make receptors less sensitive over time. “The most likely explanation is that prolonged cannabis use causes the [receptors] to lose sensitivity and become inactive,” says Daniele Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, who was not associated with the new research. “This has been shown to happen in people who smoke marijuana. 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.” While marijuana may initially promote appetite and overeating, in the long run it has the opposite effect because it desensitizes cannabinoid receptors and may even protect against obesity.

    So don’t skip the gym and break out the bong just yet: there’s still not enough data to tell whether marijuana, like alcohol, could have health benefits in moderation. Mittleman says the study relied on self-reported use of marijuana, which can be unreliable. However, he points out that since people are more likely to hide drug use than they are to falsely claim it, the findings could even underestimate marijuana’s effects.

    But whether that’s true, and whether marijuana might be a window into understanding how to best control glucose and insulin to prevent diabetes, isn’t known yet. “It is much too early to say,” says Mittleman, “We need much more research to better understand the biologic responses to marijuana use. We really need more research to allow physicians and patients to make decisions based on solid evidence.” An editorial that accompanied the study also urged government action to reduce barriers to such research.

    Even with 18 states now approving marijuana for medical uses, the politics of pot will always overshadow research efforts to understand how cannabinoids work in the brain — or affect disease. But, as Piomelli says, “the [new] study suggests that smoking marijuana [may] protect people against obesity and diabetes.” And following up on that finding could yield new insights into how to tackle one of our biggest public-health issues.

    Maia Szalavitz
    Time Magazine
    21st May 2013
    http://healthland.time.com/2013/05/21/marijuana-the-next-diabetes-drug/

Comments

  1. gal68
    Very interesting!! I hope that the government will realize how many benefits MJ can have, not just the high. There are many uses and seems we just keep learning more and more everyday.
  2. Mick Mouse
    Is marijuana good for your health? New study shows benefits

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who have used marijuana have smaller waists and lower blood sugar-a diabetes precurser-that those who had used the drug within the past month, a new study shows.

    The findings, based on surveys and blood tests of about 4,700 U.S. adults, aren't enough to prove marijuana keeps users thin or wards off disease. And among current pot smokers, higher amounts of marijuana use weren't linked to any added health benefits, researchers reported in The American Journal of Medicine.

    "These are preliminary findings," said Dr. Murray Mittleman, who worked on the study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

    "It looks like there may be some favorable effects on blood sugar control, however a lot more needs to be done to have definitive answers on the risks and potential benefits of marijuana usage."

    Although pot smoking is a well-known cause of "the munchies," some previous studies have found marijuana users tend to weigh less than other people, and one suggested they have a lower rate of diabetes. Trials in mice and rats hint that cannabis and cannabinoid receptors may influence metabolism.

    The new study used data from a national health survey conducted in 2005-2010. Researchers asked people about drug and alcohol use, as well as other aspects of their health and lifestyle, and measured their insulin and blood sugar levels.

    Just under 2,000 participants said they had used marijuana at some point, but not recently. Another 600 or so were current users - meaning they had smoked or otherwise consumed the drug in the past month.
    Compared to people who had never used pot, current smokers had smaller waists: 36.9 inches versus 38.3 inches, on average. Current users also had a lower body mass index - a ratio of weight to height - than never-users.

    When other health and lifestyle measures were taken into account, recent pot use was linked to 17 percent lower insulin resistance, indicating better blood sugar control, and slightly higher HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.

    However, there was no difference in blood pressure or blood fats based on marijuana use, Mittleman's team found.

    A CAUSAL LINK?
    Mittleman said that in his mind, it's still "preliminary" to say marijuana is likely to be responsible for any diabetes-related health benefits.

    "It's possible that people who choose to smoke marijuana have other characteristics that differ (from non-marijuana smokers)," and those characteristics are what ultimately affect blood sugar and waist size, he said.

    Dr. Stephen Sidney from the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., said he wonders if cigarette smoking may partially explain the association. Marijuana users are also more likely to smoke tobacco, he said.

    "People who use tobacco oftentimes tend to be thinner," said Sidney, who has studied marijuana use and weight but didn't participate in the new study. "So I really wonder about that."
    Another limitation with this and other studies, Sidney and Mittleman agreed, is that all of the data were collected at the same time, so it's unclear whether marijuana smoking or changes in waist size and blood sugar came first.

    "The question is, is the marijuana leading to the lower rate (of diabetes) or do they have something in common?" said Dr. Theodore Friedman, who has studied that issue at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

    He and his colleagues think the link is probably causal. "But it's really hard to prove that," Friedman, who also wasn't involved in the new research, said.
    One possibility is that the anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana help ward off diabetes, he said. But he agreed that more research is needed to draw out that link.
    "I want to make it clear - I'm not advocating marijuana use to prevent diabetes," Friedman said. "It's only an association."


    Geneva Pittman
    05/23/13
    Reuters Health
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