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Could cannabis help prevent diabetes?

Females who used cannabis heavily were less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.



Almost 4.1 million people in the UK have a diagnosis of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

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The regular consumption of cannabis may associated with diabetes prevention in women, a new study has found.

The recently published, peer-reviewed study found that females who used cannabis heavily – defined as four or more times a month – were less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than those who did not use cannabis.

However light cannabis use’ – less than four times a month – had no association with diabetes diagnosis. 

In addition, the researchers in the US, found no association between diabetes and any level of cannabis use in male participants.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that prevents the body from either making enough insulin (type 1) or being able to use insulin efficiently (type 2).

Diagnoses have doubled over the past 15 years, with almost 4.1 million people in the UK currently having a diagnosis of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Around 90 per cent of these have type 2, which can develop as a result of obesity and high blood pressure.

Last year, the charity Diabetes UK warned that up to one in 10 adults in the UK could have diabetes by 2030, describing it as a “public health emergency”.

Texas A&M University School of Public Health graduate students, along with a colleague from Hofstra University, analysed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2013-2018), from approximately 15,000 participants. The majority of participants were white females aged 40 and over.

Diabetes status was determined by physician diagnosis or meeting criteria for plasma glucose, fasting blood glucose or hemoglobin A1C levels.

Previous research has shown that the endocannabinoid system, a series of neurotransmitters and receptors in the nervous system involved in numerous biological processes, has different effects depending on sex. 

Cannabidol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidol (THC) , two key compounds in cannabis, stimulate receptors in the endocannabinoid system that result in improved glucose disposal. 

The authors note that this is one possible explanation for the sex-based difference found during their study.

They concluded that further research is needed to better understand the association observed in this study and to analyse the individual and contextual variables and mechanisms that may be responsible

The authors stated: “​​Heavy cannabis use is inversely associated with diabetes mellitus in females but not males. 

“Further studies are needed to explore the sex-based heterogeneity-and individual and contextual factors responsible-in the association between cannabis use and diabetes mellitus.”

Further evidence for cannabis and diabetes

Previous studies have found some mixed results on the effect of cannabis on diabetes. However, a landmark study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2013 concluded that cannabis compounds may help control blood sugar, and were less likely to be obese, with  higher levels of “good cholesterol”. 

In 2014, a summary published in the Natural Medicine Journal also concluded that in thousands of subjects, past and current cannabis use was associated with lower levels of fasting insulin, blood glucose, insulin resistance, BMI, and waist circumference.

Health benefits for diabetes

Research by the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC) has also suggested that cannabis may have a range of health benefits for people who have already been diagnosed with diabetes.

As well as stabilising blood sugars and lowering blood pressure over time, reducing the risk of complications, it may help to suppress some of the arterial inflammation, prevent nerve inflammation and improve circulation. It could also ease symptoms such as neuropathic pain, relieve muscle cramps and the pain of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders.

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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