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Does Cannabis Protect Against Diabetes?

It might sound counter-intuitive, but evidence suggests that smoking weed actually helps stave off metabolic disorders despite the munchies. For instance, several large-scale studies have indicated that cannabis use is associated with reducing the risk of developing diabetes.

Cannabis And Diabetes – The Stats

Pot is famous for stimulating the appetite, and everyone knows that salad doesn’t hit the spot when you’re baked. According to scientific research, stoners tend to be in pretty good shape rather than ballooning into big fat blobs.

For example, a study of over 4,600 people in the US found that cannabis users had slimmer waistlines than non-users. More interestingly, smokers had a 17 per cent lower chance of insulin resistance, which means they were less likely to suffer from conditions like diabetes[i].

A similar analysis involving almost 11,000 American adults found that diabetes rates among cannabis users were 64 per cent lower than among non-users[ii].

A deep dive into the scientific literature reveals that this study was no fluke. Way back in 2002, a US-wide survey revealed a diabetes rate of 14.3 per cent for people who used cannabis at least three times a week, while 22 per cent of non-stoners suffered from the condition. The following year, another significant analysis estimated the prevalence of diabetes to be around 17 per cent for regular smokers and 25 per cent for non-users[iii].

More recently, two separate national surveys found that cannabis users were 30 per cent less likely than non-users to suffer from diabetes[iv].

How Does Cannabis Protect Against Diabetes?

The statistical link between cannabis and a reduced risk of diabetes has been replicated so many times that scientists have largely come to accept it as fact. What they are less sure of, however, is the mechanism by which weed exerts its protective effects.

Little research has been conducted on this topic. However, one notable study on mice revealed that CBD prevented the rodents from developing insulitis, which is caused by inflammation of a critical region of tissue within the pancreas that regulates insulin levels. In a series of experiments, 30 per cent of mice treated with CBD developed diabetes, compared to 86 per cent of mice that received no treatment[v].

There is also some evidence that the relationship between cannabis use and diabetes may be partially mediated by sex. Earlier this year, a study indicated that the protective effect is much more robust in women than men. After analysing data from over 15,000 people, the study authors found that women who use cannabis regularly were 51 per cent less likely than non-users to have diabetes[vi].

Interestingly, no such trend was observed in occasional users or men, regardless of how much weed they consumed.

At this stage, it’s impossible to say why cannabis appears to protect women from diabetes or whether weed can be used as a preventative or treatment for the disorder. More research is needed to tease out the details and get to the bottom of the issue, so for now, it’s inadvisable for anyone with diabetes to attempt to treat their condition with weed.

[i] Penner EA, Buettner H, Mittleman MA. The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults. The American journal of medicine. 2013 Jul 1;126(7):583-9. – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002934313002003

[ii] Rajavashisth TB, Shaheen M, Norris KC, Pan D, Sinha SK, Ortega J, Friedman TC. Decreased prevalence of diabetes in marijuana users: cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III. BMJ open. 2012 Jan 1;2(1):e000494. – https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000494.short

[iii] Le Strat Y, Le Foll B. Obesity and cannabis use: results from 2 representative national surveys. American journal of epidemiology. 2011 Oct 15;174(8):929-33. – https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/174/8/929/155851?login=true

[iv] Alshaarawy O, Anthony JC. Cannabis Smoking and Diabetes Mellitus: Results from Meta-analysis with Eight Independent Replication Samples. Epidemiology. 2015 Jul;26(4):597-600. – https://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2015/07000/Brief_Report__Cannabis_Smoking_and_Diabetes.21.aspx

[v] Weiss L, Zeira M, Reich S, Har-Noy M, Mechoulam R, Slavin S, Gallily R. Cannabidiol lowers incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice. Autoimmunity. 2006 Jan 1;39(2):143-51. – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08916930500356674?journalCode=iaut20

[vi] Ogunsola AS, Smith S, Eniola OA, Mercy UC, Karaye IM. Sex Differences in the Association Between Cannabis Use and Diabetes Mellitus among US Adults: The National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, 2013–2018. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 2022 Jan 4.  – https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/can.2021.0134

Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.

This post is also available in: French

Ben Taub