Marijuana Lowers Diabetes Risk: Does Smoking Pot Prevent Diabetes?

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 17, 2013 10:48 AM EDT

Marijuana joint
A new Centers for Disease Control study found that using marijuana lowers diabetes risk. Marijuana smokers had lower levels of fasting insulin and were less likely to be insulin resistant. (Photo: Reuters / Michael Kooren)

A new study found that smoking marijuana lowers the risk of diabetes. The unexpected marijuana diabetes link comes from a Centers for Disease Control study, which found that people who regularly smoke marijuana have a lower risk of getting diabetes and have better blood-sugar control than those who don't smoke pot.

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The study found that regular marijuana users had significantly lower levels of fasting insulin and were less likely to be insulin resistant. Those two factors in marijuana smokers -- low levels of fasting insulin and a lower chance of insulin resistance -- combine to put users of marijuana at a lower diabetes risk. According to the study, pot smokers had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels than abstainers, and 17 percent lower insulin-resistance levels.

The study also found that while pot smokers consumed more calories than non-smokers -- no surprise there -- they had significantly smaller waistlines. Large waistlines have been linked to a higher risk for diabetes.  

"These are indeed remarkable observations that are supported by basic science experiments that came to similar conclusions," said Dr. Joseph Alpert, who wrote the introduction to the study.

So does this mean you should take up smoking marijuana to lower your risk of getting diabetes?

Legal issues aside, the researchers were quick to point out that while the results were promising, there are reasons to proceed cautiously. For one thing, there's simply not enough research yet.

"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. "I would like to call on the NIH and the DEA to collaborate in developing policies to implement solid scientific investigations that would lead to information assisting physicians in the proper use and prescription of THC in its synthetic or herbal form."

Dr. Murray Mittleman, the study's lead researcher, cautioned that another study he co-authored found that "Immediately after smoking marijuana there is a transient spike in the risk of a heart attack."

Also of note in the Centers for Disease Control study is that only current marijuana users -- and not those who were simply former users -- experienced the positive benefits.

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