Diabetes mellitus, commonly just called diabetes, is a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body fails to produce its own insulin, while type 2 diabetes is the result of the body’s fat cells failing to use the insulin that is produced.
Diabetes can lead to a variety of complications such as cardiovascular disease and chronic renal failure. The good thing is that type 1 diabetes can be managed with insulin injections or an insulin pump, while type 2 diabetes can be controlled by diet and medication.
Though treatment methods do exist, researchers have looked towards marijuana for new and better models of treatment and prevention.
Marijuana and management of diabetes symptoms
Marijuana has been studied for its viability as a treatment option for many of the symptoms and disorders that can be caused by diabetes. For example, there have been studies done on the relation between marijuana and diabetic retinopathy, diabetic cardiomyopathy, and diabetic neuropathic pain.
All three studies showed that cannabinoids, the chemical compounds found in marijuana, were able to lessen and relieve many of these symptoms. Cannabidiol (CBD) in particular was useful for diabetic retinopathy and diabetic cardiomyopathy, as it was able to reduce inflammation, neurotoxicity, and cell death.
Marijuana as a preventative for diabetes
A 2006 study published in Autoimmunity carried out some very promising research on mice. Since this study did not involve human trials, it would be preemptive to consider its findings conclusive, but the findings were highly intriguing nevertheless.
Researchers found that the previously mentioned compound, CBD, caused a significant decrease in the incidences of diabetes in mice. Non-treated mice developed diabetes 86% of the time, while treated mice only saw an incidence rate of 30% – a pretty astonishing difference. The researchers concluded that CBD may not only delay but entirely inhibit diabetes.
Marijuana as a treatment for diabetes
What about the use of marijuana as a treatment and not just as a preventative? Researchers in a 2013 study decided to look at the possible effects of tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) on type 2 diabetes. Once again mice were used, and once again the findings were promising.
The findings lead the researchers to conclude that, “THCV is a new potential treatment” for type 2 diabetes. They were led to this conclusion by the fact that THCV was able to increase insulin sensitivity, restore insulin signaling, and improve glucose tolerance.
Marijuana users show decreased prevalence of diabetes
If you think that it is too much of a leap to extrapolate findings from studies on mice to human beings, then you’ll be happy to find out that marijuana seems to have the ability to prevent diabetes in humans as well.
A 2012 cross-sectional study of 10,896 adults, which controlled for socio-demographic factors, found that marijuana users showed a lower prevalence rate of diabetes than non-users. The findings were again repeated in a 2013 study, which also found that marijuana use was correlated with a smaller waist circumference.