Epidemiologists at the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Nebraska College of drugs, and Beth Israel Deaconess center have discovered something surprising about the metabolic effects of marijuana, better referred to as marijuana. A drug notorious for giving users the munchies can help moderate blood glucose levels, waist size, and body mass index (BMI).
Their novel study, published within the current issue of The American Journal of drugs, lays the groundwork for further investigation.
“Previous epidemiologic studies have found lower prevalence rates of obesity and diabetes in marijuana users,” said lead investigator Murray Mittleman, M.D., during a handout. “Ours is that the first study to research the connection between marijuana use and fasting insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance.”
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANESTrusted Source) collected between 2005 and 2010, the researchers found a big link between the regular use of marijuana and better blood glucose control. In their analysis, participants who reported using marijuana within the past month had:
16 percent lower fasting insulin levels
17 percent lower levels of insulin resistance
higher levels of HDL cholesterol (HDL-C)
smaller waist circumference
The study incorporated data from 4,657 patients who completed a drug-use questionnaire, took a physical exam and provided a blood sample following a nine-hour fast. Of these, 579 were current marijuana users, 1,975 had used it within the past, and 2,103 had never used marijuana.
Both insulin resistance and an outsized waist circumference are linked to a greater risk of developing diabetes. The fasting insulin test utilized in this study may be a common thanks to diagnosing diabetes.
Marijuana users tend to consume more calories than non-users, but consistent with Mittleman, “two large studies found that marijuana users attended be leaner than non-users, even after accounting for other behavioral and clinical characteristics.”
Mittleman told Healthline News that the mechanisms at work are still not entirely clear. “We know from previous work that drugs that block the cannabinoid receptors within the body have similar favorable metabolic effects,” he explained. “It is feasible that a number of the cannabinoid compounds within the marijuana employed by the study participants may have had mixed effects, partially stimulating and partially blocking the [cannabinoid] receptors.”
The Medical Use and Legalization of Marijuana
Although marijuana has been illegal within the U.S. since 1937, its use continues unabated. By current estimates, 18.1 million Americans use marijuana or about seven percent of the adult population.
The herb marijuana has been used for hundreds of years to alleviate pain, improve mood, and increase appetite. Medical marijuana may be a synthetic sort of its active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), now approved to treat the side effects of chemotherapy, AIDS-induced anorexia, nausea, and other medical conditions.
Currently, 19 states and therefore the District of Columbia have legalized THC for medical use, and legislation is pending approval in 10 other states. the amount of patients currently using medical marijuana is estimated at nearly 2.5 million, consistent with ProCon.org, supported data from state registries.
And state legalization of recreational marijuana is gaining momentum also. So far, Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis for all uses.
“With the increasing number of states that allow marijuana use for medical or recreational purposes, it's crucial to expand the research to raised understand the biologic effects of marijuana,” said Mittleman.
The medical profession is becoming increasingly vocal within the push to research the therapeutic properties and side effects of cannabis.
AJM editor-in-chief Joseph S. Alpert, M.D., made his position clear in an article accompanying the present study: “I would like to turn the NIH and therefore the DEA to collaborate in developing policies to implement solid scientific investigations that might cause information assisting physicians within the proper use and prescription of THC in its synthetic or herbal form.”
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