Findings from a new clinical trial add to a growing evidence base for the potential of cannabinoids in managing diabetes. What do we know so far?
The rise in people living with type 2 diabetes is an impending global health crisis.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the number of people with diabetes rose from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. More than 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, which can develop as a result of obesity and high blood pressure.
While it can be managed through diet, physical activity, medication and regular screening, complications can result in blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.
In the UK alone, the charity Diabetes UK has warned that up to one in 10 adults could have diabetes by 2030, describing it as a ‘public health emergency’.
With much need for intervention and cannabis-based medicines becoming more widely available for medical and research purposes, scientists are investigating the potential of cannabinoids to help manage type 2 diabetes.
New clinical trial data
A cannabis-based sublingual spray has been shown to help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
In a new placebo controlled clinical trial, diabetic patients administered the spray containing CBD and THC, showed improvements in their blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
A team of researchers from Iran evaluated the efficacy of a proprietary formulation of plant-derived CBD/THC compared (CBDEX10®) to placebo in a cohort of 50 patients with type 2 diabetes.
Patients were given a twice-daily dose over a period of eight weeks.
At the end of the eight weeks, results showed a ‘statistically significant decline in total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL-C, FBS [fasting blood glucose levels], Hb [haemoglobin] A1C] and insulin secretion in the patients treated with CBDEX10®’.
The treatment was well tolerated and there were no serious or severe adverse effects, according to the study.
Researchers concluded: “In the present study, we demonstrated that sublingual administration of [a CBD/THC] spray, … twice daily through an eight-week treatment period could effectively improve the patient’s lipid profile and glucose tolerance.
“Based on these observations, the combination of CBD/Δ9-THC regimen could be a new therapeutic regimen for controlling the lipid profile and glycemic state of DM [type 2 diabetic] patients.”
Previous research into cannabis and diabetes
The findings contribute to a small, but growing, evidence base for the role of cannabis compounds in treating, and potentially even preventing, diabetes.
A study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2013 concluded that cannabis compounds may help control blood sugar, and that those who consumed it 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.
Elsewhere, a peer-reviewed study from 2022 analysed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2013-2018), from approximately 15,000 participants. Researchers 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 or used it less frequently.
THCV – ‘diet weed’?
The cannabinoid THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) – an analogue of THC – is sometimes referred to as ‘diet weed’, due to its supposed appetite-curbing and energy-boosting properties.
At high levels, THCV can act similarly to THC but its effects are weaker.
Some emerging evidence suggests that THCV could be used as a tool to aid weight loss and previous data from clinical trials has shown that it may decrease fasting glucose levels in type 2 diabetics.
A small study, supported by a grant from the National Institute for Health (NIH), also indicated that it could help aid weight loss, with participants losing up to three points off their BMI when taking a hemp-extract containing THCV and CBDV.
Managing the symptoms of diabetes
Research by the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC) has suggested that cannabis may have a range of health benefits for people who have already been diagnosed with diabetes.
According to its website, as well as stabilising blood sugars and lowering blood pressure over time, reducing the risk of complications, cannabis 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.
While early evidence for the role of cannabinoids in managing diabetes is promising, further research is needed before any solid conclusions can be made.
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for educational purposes only. Always speak to your doctor before making any changes to your medical care.
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