In a recent clinical study doctors have found that patients of theirs co-infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C (HCV) were less likely to develop diabetes and insulin resistance if they smoked pot.
You can get certain forms of hepatitis in the same way as HIV, and about 80% of intravenous drug users with HIV also have HCV. Both diseases put the person at risk for further complications in the liver, as well as diabetes.
In this large-scale study done by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 200 collaborators looked at 703 patients, collecting data over 60 months for each patient. Doctors assessed their level of insulin resistance and took behavioral data, including cannabis use.
Adjusting for all the variables they could, they found that cannabis users with HIV-HCV were around 2.77 times less likely to develop insulin resistance. While the study focused on people co-infected with those two illnesses, the study concluded saying “benefits of cannabis-based pharmacotherapies for patients concerned with increased risk of IR and diabetes need to be evaluated.”
A future for medical marijuana as a preventative medicine lies ahead to help those at risk of developing diabetes and insulin resistance.
“Previous epidemiologic studies have found lower prevalence rates of obesity and diabetes in marijuana users,” said lead investigator Murray Mittleman, M.D., in a press release. “Ours is the first study to investigate the relationship between marijuana use and fasting insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance.”
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected between 2005 and 2017, the researchers found a significant link between the regular use of marijuana and better blood sugar control. In their analysis, participants who reported using marijuana in the past month had:
- 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels
- 17 percent lower levels of insulin resistance
- higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C)
- smaller waist circumference
The study incorporated data from 4,657 patients who completed a drug-use questionnaire, took a physical exam, and provided a blood sample following a nine-hour fast. Of these, 579 were current marijuana users, 1,975 had used it in the past, and 2,103 had never used marijuana.Both insulin resistance and a large waist circumference have been linked to a greater risk of developing diabetes. The fasting insulin test used in this study is a common way to diagnose diabetes.
Marijuana users tend to consume more calories than non-users, but according to Mittleman, “two large studies found that marijuana users tended to be leaner than non-users, even after accounting for other behavioral and clinical characteristics.”
Mittleman told Healthline News that the mechanisms at work are still not entirely clear. “We know from previous work that drugs that block the cannabinoid receptors in the body have similar favorable metabolic effects,”he explained. “It is possible that some of the cannabinoid compounds in the marijuana used by the study participants may have had mixed effects, partially stimulating and partially blocking the [cannabinoid] receptors.”