Diabetes is one of the most serious and prevalent health conditions affecting Americans. At this moment, roughly 34.2 million Americans—slightly more than one in ten—suffer from this group of diseases. Though there are several subtypes of diabetes, the common thread is an inability to process and use sugar in the blood.
There’s no cure for diabetes, although the disease can usually be treated and controlled. And now, hope for a new course of treatment is coming from a very unexpected direction: Marijuana for diabetes.
What role might marijuana play in the treatment of diabetes? There’s no definitive evidence, but a number of indications point to several factors. Here’s where the research currently stands.
Marijuana for Diabetes: Roots of an Insidious Disease
As we mentioned, diabetes is characterized by an excess of blood sugar, also known as blood glucose. Blood glucose is our body’s main source of energy, and it’s sent from our blood to the cells that need it by a hormone called insulin. When our body doesn’t make enough insulin, the glucose stays in our blood instead of reaching the cells that need it.
The most common types of diabetes are type I, type II, and gestational. Type I can appear at any age, though it most often occurs in the young. It’s characterized by an inability to make any insulin. Those who suffer from it need to take insulin every day to stay alive. By comparison, type II diabetes more often occurs in middle-aged or older populations. Characterized by an inability to use insulin well, it’s the most common type. Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women, and it usually subsides after the baby is born.
As we mentioned earlier, all types of diabetes are characterized by an inability to properly use blood sugar. And that’s a great place to talk about the intersection of marijuana and diabetes.
Marijuana for Diabetes: A Role in Maintaining Blood Sugar Levels
It turns out there are several areas for study when it comes to marijuana and blood sugar. The most important one is the finding that those who use marijuana appear to metabolize carbohydrates—one of the three types of foods, along with proteins and fats—better than those who don’t. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2013 found that their bodies used insulin better than non-users, and their fasting insulin levels—a measure of sensitivity—were lower, a positive indication.
What’s more, the study concluded that those who used marijuana tended to be less obese and have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-users. Finally, marijuana users tended to have higher levels of “good cholesterol” and smaller waistlines, even when they took in more calories.
The following year, a study published in the Natural Medicine Journal came to much the same conclusion. And the year after that, a study written by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem uncovered a new line of inquiry: The notion that marijuana’s well-known anti-inflammatory effects could help mitigate the arterial inflammation associated with type II diabetes.
That’s a lot to take in! And while it’s promising, it’s important to keep in mind that the use of marijuana for diabetes isn’t fully established, nor is it recognized by regulatory bodies such as the FDA. It’s important that you consult with a physician before using marijuana for diabetes, or any other serious disease.
Do you have more questions about the use of marijuana for diabetes? Just ask! We’re always here to help.