NOV 21, 2018 11:15 AM PST

Can Cannabis Help Manage Type II Diabetes?

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

Type II diabetes is a chronic debilitating disease originating from a combination of lifestyle and genetics that eventually leads to insulin resistance, that is, the desensitization of insulin receptors to react to insulin. The Center for Disease Control has estimated that over 100 million Americans suffer from Type II diabetes or are "pre-diabetic". While there is no "magic pill" to cure Type II, patients can manage their diabetes with exercise, a healthy diet, and the use of insulin and other medications to control blood sugar levels. Yet with the medical marijuana industry open for business, could there a new therapeutic in the works? Or better yet, a prevention?

https://assets.labroots.com/_public/_files/system/ck/trending/diabetes-2994808_640_26ccd3abd685e9ffe27f45cdee1133bb.jpg

Photo Source: Pixabay.com

Claims for the diabetic-curing properties of marijuana have made their way onto the lists of countless ailments that can be treated, if not cured, by smoking marijuana or using cannabidiol (CBD) oil. These are mainly anecdotal (as with many of the other health claims). But the more pertinent scientific question is: does the endocannabinoid system (ECS) (our innate network of receptors and cannabinoid-like chemical messengers that run throughout our bodies) play a role in regulating blood sugar? If so, can this system be utilized to help those who have lost that ability (i.e. diabetics)?

It turns out that the ECS does regulate energy balance and insulin sensitivity. It is also very important in regulating energy balance and adipose (fat cells) tissue. Circulating levels of the endocannabinoid 2-arachin donoylglycerol (2-AG) have been found to be higher in subjects with increased abdominal adipose tissue and lower insulin sensitivity. It has been posited that this dysregulation in 2-AG levels may contribute to the development of Type II diabetes, at least in cases of obesity. In fact, after bariatric surgery, patients were shown to have lower levels of circulating endocannabinoids and better metabolic homeostasis.

The ECS as a whole has largely become recognized as a regulator of homeostasis, that is, it works to keep various systems, such as metabolic rate, energy expenditure, fat composition and glucose utilization in check, or, in other words, within a healthy, normal range. So if the homeostasis in glucose utilization has gone awry, leading to decreased insulin sensitivity (and then down the line, diabetes), could the ECS be manipulated to bring glucose levels back to normal?

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Photo Source: unsplash.com

  1. studies have shown that greater cannabis use either had no relation or was negatively associated with lower body mass indexes (BMIs) and the development of Type II diabetes. This is a bit perplexing, given what we know about the effects of marijuana on appetite (i.e. "the munchies"). The reason or reasons for this discrepancy are reportedly unknown. However, the clinical literature has shown some efficacy of treatment with CBD and/or another, non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid, Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), decreased measures of diabetic biomarkers (e.g. fasting glucose levels and pancreatic beta-cell function) in patients with Type II diabetes.

So perhaps we can chalk up another therapeutic effect on cannabis (or at least some of its compounds): Type II diabetes management. There were no definitive studies with evidence that phytocannabinoids could reverse or cure diabetes, so we will have to rely on anecdotal "evidence" on its putative diabetes-curing properties. For more information about cannabis and diabetes, see the video below.

Video Source: YouTube.com

Source: endocrineweb.com, Center for Disease Control, National Institutes for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders, Diabetes - Perspectives in Drug Therapy, Current Diabetes Reports, Diabetes, Obesity Surgery, Youtube.com, Diabetes Care, Critical Reviews in Eukaryotic Gene Expression

About the Author
  • I currently work at a small CRO involved in clinical trial management.
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