Diabetes mellitus (DM), commonly referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. Symptoms of high blood sugar include frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. If left untreated, diabetes can cause many complications. Acute complications include diabetic ketoacidosis and nonketotic hyperosmolar coma. Serious long-term complications include cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney failure, foot ulcers and damage to the eyes.
Diabetes is due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced. There are three main types of diabetes mellitus:
Type 1 DM results from the body’s failure to produce enough insulin. This form was previously referred to as “insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” (IDDM) or “juvenile diabetes”. The cause is unknown.
Type 2 DM begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to respond to insulin properly. As the disease progresses a lack of insulin may also develop. This form was previously referred to as “non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” (NIDDM) or “adult-onset diabetes”. The primary cause is excessive body weight and not enough exercise.
Gestational diabetes, is the third main form and occurs when pregnant women without a previous history of diabetes develop a high blood glucose level.
Prevention and treatment involves a healthy diet, physical exercise, not using tobacco and being a normal body weight. Blood pressure control and proper foot care are also important for people with the disease. Type 1 diabetes must be managed with insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes may be treated with medications with or without insulin. Insulin and some oral medications can cause low blood sugar. Weight loss surgery in those with obesity is an effective measure in those with type 2 DM. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after the birth of the baby.
As of 2014, an estimated 387 million people have diabetes worldwide, with type 2 diabetes making up about 90% of the cases. This is equal to 8.3% of the adult population, with equal rates in both women and men. In the years 2012 to 2014, diabetes is estimated to have resulted in 1.5 to 4.9 million deaths per year. Diabetes at least doubles the risk of death. The number of people with diabetes is expected to rise to 592 million by 2035.
Medical Marijuana Efficacy
Preclinical studies indicate that cannabinoids may modify diabetes progression and that they also may provide symptomatic relief to those suffering from it.
A 2006 study published in the journal Autoimmunity reported that injections of 5 mg per day of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD significantly reduced the incidence of diabetes in mice. Investigators reported that 86% of untreated control mice in the study developed diabetes. By contrast, only 30% of CBD-treated mice developed the disease.
In a separate experiment, investigators reported that control mice all developed diabetes at a median of 17 weeks (range 15-20 weeks), while a majority (60 percent) of CBD-treated mice remained diabetes-free at 26 weeks.
A 2013 study assessing the effect of THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) in genetically modified obese mice reported that the cannabinoids administration produced several metabolically beneficial effects relative to diabetes, including reduced glucose intolerance, improved glucose tolerance, improved liver triglyceride levels, and increased insulin sensitivity. Authors concluded, “Based on these data, it can be suggested that THCV may be useful for the treatment of the metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes), either alone or in combination with existing treatments.”
Official Research Reports
The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults. (Penner EA, Buettner H, Mittleman MA, 2013)
Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids in metabolic disorders with focus on diabetes (Di Marzo V, Piscitelli F, Mechoulam R, 2011)
Beneficial effects of a Cannabis sativa extract treatment on diabetes-induced neuropathy and oxidative stress. (Comelli F, Bettoni I, Colleoni M, Giagnoni G, Costa B, 2009)
Cannabidiol lowers incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice. (Weiss L, Zeira M, Reich S, Har-Noy M, Mechoulam R, Slavin S, Gallily R, 2006)
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