15 May Cannabis, The Munchies, Obesity And Diabetes

Another prohibition claim has just bitten the dust as a study into the effects of cannabis has come up with another “wrong result”. The claim was that as cannabis is known to cause “the munchies” it would lead people to over-eat and so pile on the calories, leading to fat stoners. If that were not enough it seems there is another valuable medical use for cannabis in preventing diabetes.

A study published in American Journal of Epidemiology (Abstract here) called “Obesity and Cannabis Use: Results From two Representative National Surveys” looked at the weight of cannabis users. Simply, if the claim about the munchies leading to obesity were true, then the researchers should have found that cannabis users were fatter on average than none users. The “wrong result” of course, showed the exact opposite

The authors conclude that the prevalence of obesity is lower in cannabis users than in nonusers.

Whoops, there goes another prohibition claim and it’s no small difference either. So what’s going on? It is true that some cannabis consumers do hit the munchies and some may intake a good 600 cals more than average. But as Time (Health and Family) reported

… showing that rates of obesity are lower by roughly a third in people who smoke pot at least three times a week, compared with those who don’t use marijuana at all.

As Time reports

Researchers analyzed data from two large national surveys of the American population, which together included some 52,000 participants. In the first survey, they found that 22% of those who did not smoke marijuana were obese, compared with just 14% of the regular marijuana smokers. The second survey found that 25% of nonsmokers were obese, compared with 17% of regular cannabis users.

They also found that this result held true after adjusting for other variables which might have an effect on body weight such as general health age, tobacco use and gender. The Time article tries to pour cold water on the idea that cannabis might actually be a slimming aid, pointing out that consumers are unlikely to be able to resist eating, but that misses the point as the article has already established they take in more calories than average, yet don’t seem to be gaining the weight.

So could it be that cannabis actually allows people to eat chocolate with a clear conscience? It does seem that way. As Time says

Whatever the case, marijuana research never lacks for surprises!

Even more important than the effect of cannabis on waist sizes was reported in the Independent today

Cannabis linked to prevention of diabetes

Regular users of the drug found to have lower levels of insulin after fasting, research shows

This is dynamite news and yet again runs counter to the UK government’s insistence that herbal cannabis has no medicinal value. The Independent reports

Smoking cannabis may prevent the development of diabetes, one of the most rapidly rising chronic disorders in the world.

This is amazing news if it’s proven to be correct

Researchers have found that regular users of the drug had lower levels of the hormone insulin after fasting – a signal that they are protected against diabetes. They also had reduced insulin resistance….

The study involved almost 5,000 patients who answered a questionnaire about their drug use and were part of the National Health and Nutrition Survey between 2005 and 2010. The results showed almost 2,000 had used cannabis at some point in their lives and more than one in 10 (579) were current users. Only those who had used cannabis within the past month showed evidence of protection against diabetes, suggesting that the effects wear off in time. Current users of the drug had 16 per cent lower fasting insulin than those who had never used the drug.

Diabetes.co.uk reports

“Previous epidemiologic studies have found lower prevalence rates of obesity and diabetes mellitus in marijuana users compared to people who have never used marijuana, suggesting a relationship between cannabinoids and peripheral metabolic processes, but ours is the first to investigate the relationship between marijuana use and fasting insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance,” said lead investigator Mittleman.

The reports adds

Prof Joseph S. Alpert, of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and editor in chief of the American Journal of Medicine, which published the findings, said: “These are remarkable observations that are supported by basic science experiments that came to similar conclusions.”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.”

That, and very much more. What we also need is a government willing to take the blinkers from its eyes and to accept the fact that there is clearly a great deal of medicinal benefit to be had from herbal cannabis. The insistence that cannabis is a drug with no medicinal value is not only wrong, it’s cruel. Many, many ill people’s lives will be improved when this corrupt prohibition law finally ends.

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