Marijuana and Diabetes? What’s the Connection?

Marijuana use has been colloquially associated with “the munchies,” the phenomenon of increased appetite that can occur following use.  However, in the journal Obesity, researchers have published data showing that regular marijuana users actually have lower Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) than the general population. Since elevated BMI is associated with diabetes risk, some of the researchers’ figures seem to indicate that marijuana users may in fact have lowered diabetes risk.

The mechanism for this is not entirely clear, but one might imagine that since marijuana is very effective at reducing anxiety, smoking marijuana may prevent anxiety states which compel some of us to emotionally overeat.  Naturally, pharmaceutical companies have jumped on board.  Many are studying cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which are responsible for marijuana’s psychogenic effects, to see if new drugs can be targetted to modulate weight and reduce diabetes risk.

So should all of us be using marijuana to keep our weight in check and to prevent diabetes? Unfortunately, the data are anything but clear at this point.  The journal Diabetologia also contains published reports that heavy marijuana smokers in their 20s may be up to 40% more likely to develop diabetes in middle age.

As the state of Hawaii is on the verge of legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries in early 2016, this issue is especially timely for island residents.


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