A recent study from the University of Miami has shown that those who partake in cannabis are half as likely to have metabolic syndrome, a condition that puts people at risk for heart attack, diabetes and stroke.
An analysis of almost 8500 people that completed the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys compared markers of metabolic syndrome with cannabis use to find correlations. Metabolic syndrome, a set of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes, occurs when a person has three or more of the following: high waist measurement, high triglycerides, low HDL, high blood pressure and high fasting glucose levels.
While 13.8% of current cannabis smokers and 17.5% of past tokers had metabolic syndrome, 19.5% of those who had never touched the stuff did have the condition. Statistically speaking, this makes smokers dabbers and edible cannaseurs 54% less likely to have a condition that can lead to heart disease, diabetes or stroke.
A similar study using the same survey data found cannabis consumers had lower fasting glucose levels, weight circumferences and lower insulin resistance.
These studies don’t prove consuming cannabis prevents metabolic syndrome on its own, but other research shows that its active ingredients could be responsible for preventing weight gain and metabolic syndrome and explain these results.
Endocannabinoid system helps regulate food intake, inflammation, metabolism, among other things, and the role it plays in the development of obesity is still unknown, but several connections have been uncovered. Consuming cannabis activates two different cannabinoid receptors in the body: CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptor, found in brain cells and responsible for getting people high, is also located in the gastrointestinal tract, the adrenal gland, the heart, and fat cells. The CB2 receptor finds itself in blood cells and immune tissue, and may be related to cannabis’ reported action against autoimmune disorders.
Drugs that produce the opposite effect that THC does on the CB1 receptor, an inverse agonist, provided weight loss in several trials, and the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis marketed such a drug, called Rimbonant, in Europe. Rimbonant was never approved for sale in the USA, and approval in Europe was withdrawn after only three years. The drug worked for weight loss, but had several severe side effects including depression and suicide.
With inverse agonists proven to not be the right answer, medical researchers need to bridge the gap in knowledge between cannabis and obesity to explain this latest study. Can cannabis, known to cause “the munchies,” keep people genetically at risk of diabetes healthy? Will cannabis or specialized cannabinoid drugs one day provide preventative or palliative care? This exciting plant’s future will have to tell.
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