Marijuana May Help Blood Sugar Control, Study Says

For residents of Colorado and Washington state, 2014 brought a profound legal and societal change. Marijuana is now available, legally, in both of those states. While the drug is cleared for medical use elsewhere, and other jurisdictions have decriminalized it, these two states have taken the profound, extra step of full legalization.

So what does this new, widespread sale of pot mean for people with diabetes? On one hand, you might expect that it would cause problems. Most people have heard (or experienced first-hand, although we won’t be taking names here) of the “munchies.” How could that possibly be good for folks watching their blood sugar? Surprisingly, research suggests otherwise.

Marijuana actually appears to have metabolic benefits. A study published last summer in The American Journal of Medicine looked at more than 4,500 adults, of whom 579 were using marijuana at the time. That subgroup had notably better fasting blood glucose levels, insulin resistance, and waist circumference.


According to the study’s abstract: “current marijuana use was associated with 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels . . . and 17 percent lower HOMA-IR (insulin resistance). . . . We found significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences.”


Murray Mittleman, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author, told Time magazine last year that “the most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers.”


Why does marijuana have these effects? Scientists aren’t quite sure. The study was not a controlled trial–participants were simply asked about marijuana use–so other factors beside the drug could be in play. It may be, for instance, that people who use marijuana are more likely to exercise vigorously (although it doesn’t seem likely).


What is known with confidence is that pot affects areas of the brain called cannabinoid receptors. And as attacks of “the munchies” have shown, those receptors play a big role in appetite and metabolism.


In fact, the drug rimonabant was developed to affect those very same receptors–but in a different way than marijuana. The drug was effective at cutting weight and fasting blood glucose levels in users, but it was ultimately taken off the shelf in Europe because of psychiatric side effects. It was never approved for use in the United States.


When you take last summer’s study and rimonabant into account, it’s clear that marijuana plays an intriguing role in the body’s insulin regulation. While the federal government has made studying marijuana difficult–it’s still illegal on the national level–the spread of relaxed state laws and natural scientific curiosity suggests that we’ll be hearing more about this subject in the future. In a few decades, some sort of marijuana derivative may be part of the everyday health regimen for people with diabetes.


If that sounds preposterous, just remember that the United States prohibited manufacture and sale of alcohol from 1920 to 1933. Since then, doctors have found that red wine has real health benefits, and older adults are often encouraged to drink a glass a day.


Times can change, and change quickly.


2 thoughts on “Marijuana May Help Blood Sugar Control, Study Says

  • July 17, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Is marijuana used to lower high blood sugar if so and while having munchies as long as u refrain from sugar right?

  • July 4, 2019 at 12:18 am

    I am a White Male, disabled Vietnam Vet, 71 years old, and have smoked cannabis, almost daily since 1967..except I took a break for 4 years (was approaching retirement).. I found out quite a bit about that (Withdrawals). I am also a type II Diabetic..last 15 yrs (agent orange and obesity). Ive read a lot about cannabis ..and found most websites and articles are really wrong about the effects..on appetite, insulin resistance. I also, for the last year, have been using CBD, and edibles with THC., both Sativa and Indica and their hybrids. The industry is still in the “ignorant and stupid” stage.. I could write a LOT about this..and will do so if you email me. I will say this now, – I predicted it would be medically available, in the future in 1967..after the first time I tried it…was a real epiphany. Thats come to pass.. I also predicted that, if medical or recreational, it would be owned eventually by established large corporations who were going to hybridize it to where it looked great and smelled great, but wouldnt get you really “high”.. that also has come to pass. “They” have fooled around with it so much, that really potent strains, occurring naturally (like in the good old days) are at risk of being unintentionally cross pollinated to the point where it will be (think “Thai Stick”) very weak.. Dont believe any of this? Well, there are a few web sites that confirm what Im saying. I also have addressed other matters concerning cannabis , like – The difference between smoking current types and eating it. As far as lowering Blood Sugar, in most cases fails because people cant accept (especially in North America) a real, healthy, change in diet.. Email me if you want to know all Ive discovered about this.


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