Marijuana Blood Sugar Study Says Cannabis Lowers Diabetes And Obesity Risk

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May 24, 2013 11:59 PM EST

Smoking a blunt may keep off the bulge, according to a new study by the American Journal of Medicine. The findings suggest that people who used marijuana have lower levels of insulin resistance and waist sizes.

The clinical study says marijuana users that were examined for five years had lower rates of obesity and diabetes. But the results aren’t enough proof to say that marijuana can definitively lower the risk of either condition.

Dr. Murray Mittleman, who worked on the study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston says the findings are preliminary, Reuters reports.

"It looks like there may be some favorable effects on blood sugar control, however a lot more needs to be done to have definitive answers on the risks and potential benefits of marijuana usage," Mittleman said.  

The study used blood samples of 4,657 men and women over a five year period. Among the participants 12 percent were marijuana users, and 48 percent were past users. Their blood was taken after a nine-hour fast. The findings found that those who had smoked pot had an average waist size of 36.9 inches compared to 38.3 inches for non-users.

Banned in the United States since 1937, marijuana has become more socially acceptable. Recently, marijuana has been legalized for medical use in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and recreationally in two states. The AJC estimates there are 17.4 million current users marijuana in the United States. Approximately 4.6 million of these users smoke marijuana daily or almost daily.

A synthetic form of marijuana’s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC, has been approved to treat side effects of chemotherapy, AIDS-induced anorexia, nausea, and other medical conditions.

The recent study presents a paradox: wouldn’t the “munchies” make marijuana users prone to gain weight?

Hannah Buettner, the study’s coauthor says that the reasons behind this contradiction remain unknown. In two previous studies, however, marijuana smokers have lower body-mass-index (BMI).

Editor-in-Chief Joseph S. Alpert, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine says more research must be done to draw stronger conclusions.

“We desperately need a great deal more basic and clinical research into the short- and long-term effects of marijuana in a variety of clinical settings such as cancer, diabetes, and frailty of the elderly,” Alpert said.

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