Type 2 diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the Western world. Obesity is a massive risk factor associated with the condition. Certain molecules within the cannabis plant may work effectively in preventing and even treating the condition. 81 3 2 Nov 2017
Cannabis has been used as an herbal medicine within cultures for thousands of years. After a brief and corrupt period of prohibition, the herb is once again reaching its well-deserved status as a truly healing medicine. Modern science continues to observe the plant in detail and has so far discovered that many of the constituents within, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, have the ability to improve human health and treat certain diseases and conditions.
On top of the plant’s effectiveness, it is also extremely safe and there are no deaths attributed to toxicity. The list of diseases and ailments that cannabis is proving to be effective for is becoming extremely long. One of these diseases is diabetes. Let’s explore the risk factors and causes of the condition, before looking into the possible therapeutic effects that cannabis has to offer.
TYPES AND STATISTICS
There are two separate types of diabetes. Type 1 is a genetic disorder in which people’s bodies cannot produce insulin, a peptide hormone responsible for controlling blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is far more common and occurs when a person’s body cannot produce enough insulin, or the insulin that is produced is not working efficiently.
A report from the American Diabetes Association detailed the prevalence of the disease during 2015 within the United States. It was found that 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes. Of this population, approximately 1.23 million American adults and children had type 1 diabetes. The condition was the 7th leading cause of death within the country during the same year, associated with a total of 79,535 deaths.
CAUSES OF TYPE 2 DIABETES
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas, a large gland located behind the stomach, doesn’t produce enough insulin. When this happens, a normal blood glucose level cannot be maintained. The condition can also arise when the body is unable to use the insulin that is produced, a situation known as insulin resistance.
There are numerous risk factors that are associated with type 2 diabetes, and any of them can increase the chances of an individual being diagnosed with the condition. Age is one of these risk factors, and one that is highly influenced by race. Being over 40 is classed as a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes for white people. However, these numbers fluctuate. Being over 25 is a risk factor for South Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or black African populations. Age is theorised to increase risk due to the possibility of weight gain and less exercise.
Genetics also play a role within the condition. Having a close relative such as a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes is associated with a 1 in 3 risk of developing the condition.
Finally, being overweight or obese is heavily associated with type 2 diabetes. As human beings, our bodies are extremely adaptive to our environment, including the way we move and the foods we choose to indulge in. Moving well, lifting weights, and eating healthy foods will positively affect our epigenetic expression and lead to a state of well-being.
However, doing the opposite can lead to weight gain and the chronic diseases that come along with it, including type 2 diabetes. A body mass index (BMI) of 25 puts an individual within the overweight range, and a BMI of 30 or above places them into the obese range, further increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, Asians with a BMI of 23 or higher are at an increased risk, while Asians with a BMI of 27.5 or above are even more at risk.
Stored fat around the abdomen can greatly increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Stored fat within this area of the body releases chemicals that can disrupt the cardiovascular and metabolic systems within the body. This can also boost the risk of developing other serious conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer.
For most people, the idea that cannabis may be able to assist with such a serious disease may seem absolutely absurd. Many people see the herb as a dangerous, illicit drug that has no place in modern medicine. The truth is, this point of view has been cultivated by decades of propaganda and political manipulation. When we look at the hard facts in the form of scientific publications, we see that cannabis is an extremely potent and complex medicine that works with the body in a very powerful and specific manner. This occurs via the endocannabinoid system, a network of receptors that are activated by the molecules found within the cannabis plant.
So, how exactly can this plant work to prevent and possibly treat diabetes? Well, the main mechanism may involve weight management, an important factor when considering the extremely close relation between obesity, BMI, and type 2 diabetes. This may seem surprising considering certain stereotypes associated with consuming cannabis, such as the overindulgence in food, laziness, and lack of exercise. It turns out, these may very well be fictitious accounts perpetuated by pop culture over time.
CANNABIS AND OBESITY
A scientific publication within the American Journal of Epidemiology examines the link between obesity and cannabis use by applying the results from two representative national surveys. The researchers found that cannabis users are actually less likely to be obese than non-users in the general population. This result was the opposite of the initial hypothesis, which was based on clinical trials and laboratory studies that linked cannabis to appetite stimulation.
The publication also invokes numerous studies that show similar results. One such study consisting of 297 women suggested that the rate of cannabis use in the last 12 months was lower in obese subjects than it was in women with a lower BMI. Another study showed a contrasting result, displaying that frequent cannabis usage was associated with obesity in girls in a sample of 7,885 adolescents. However, another study showed that although cannabis is associated with higher caloric intake, people using cannabis are less likely to be obese than those who do not use it.
So, what do these results indicate? Well, based on these studies, cannabis does have a strong correlation with a healthy weight. Does this mean that a healthy weight cannot be achieved without the use of cannabis? Certainly not, exercise and nutrition are still key. However, there does seems to be room for the herb as a potential preventative measure.
One of the reasons that cannabis may be linked to a healthier weight is due to an enhanced carbohydrate metabolism. Murray Mittleman, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School has been quoted saying, “The most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers.”
The research that led to this statement included over 4,600 men and women. 49% of subjects had smoked cannabis at least once during their lifetime, and 12% smoked the herb frequently. It was found that current cannabis users had fasting insulin levels that were 16% lower than former users and those who had never smoked. Cannabis smokers also displayed a 17% reduction in another measure of insulin resistance. Mittleman also stated, “Their fasting insulin levels were lower, and they appeared to be less resistant to insulin produced by their body to maintain a normal blood-sugar level.”
CANNABIS IN DIABETES DRUGS
The UK-based company GW Pharmaceuticals is currently in the process of developing a cannabis drug that will potentially eliminate the need for insulin injections when it comes to diabetes. The company has already developed an oral spray called Sativex, a prescription medication used for the muscle spasms involved in multiple sclerosis. This new drug aims to use cannabinoids CBD and THCV, molecules shown to be effective for lowering blood sugar and improving insulin production.
THCV is yet another powerful medicinal cannabinoid. Known in full as tetrahydrocannabivarin, THCV has been found to offer an array of health benefits that may be particularly useful to diabetics. For one, THCV has been shown to be an appetite suppressant. This means it may have the ability to manage weight in obese patients.
A scientific study published by the American Diabetes Association looked into the efficacy and safety of both THCV and CBD on patients with type 2 diabetes. The researchers involved in the study mention that THCV significantly decreased fasting plasma glucose, stating, “These findings suggest that THCV may represent a new therapeutic agent for glycemic control in subjects with type 2 diabetes.”External Resources:
- Obesity and Cannabis Use: Results From 2 Representative National Surveys | American Journal of Epidemiology | Oxford Academic
- Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Group Pilot Study
Disclaimer:This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.