Can Pot Brownies Guard Against Getting Diabetes?

Have a sweet tooth? Prepare to party.

pot brownies
Photo by Flickr user Pen Waggener

You might intuitively think that eating tons of sugar can’t be good for you and may even lead to developing diabetes. But au contraire. In fact, pot brownies may even guard against it.

How’s that, now?

Regular marijuana users don’t seem to lead necessarily to the munchies, but smoking pot will always give them an urge to snack. That’s one of the reasons why cannabis works so well helping AIDS and chemo patients put back on lost pounds. And yet there is an anomaly: While regular marijuana users tend to have a higher calorie intake than nonusers (the munchies effect), they also have lower body mass index as well as lower rates of obesity and diabetes.

A 2013 study took a closer look at that paradox and found evidence suggesting that regular cannabis use may stabilize blood sugar and ward off diabetes. Compared with nonusers, the cannabis achievers had on average 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels and 17 percent less resistance to insulin. Higher levels of both are associated with adult onset diabetes, which is itself associated with obesity. Moreover, users were an inch and a half slenderer than nonusers and had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (that’s the “good” cholesterol that protects you from heart disease).

The results of the study were clear (“Bite it, abstainers!”), but the explanation still is not. One avenue of speculation focuses on neurological tolerance. While regular users might never habituate to the munchies, receptors in the brain become less responsive to other signals from cannabis, including the ones that tell the body to fatten up. There was, in fact, a weight-loss drug that acted precisely on this idea, by offsetting the body’s natural cannabinoids. (It worked but was pulled from the market because it made users want to kill themselves.)

If we understand this interpretation of the evidence correctly, it means that regular cannabis use protects you from diabetes by simulating the way your brain works without cannabis. Which is a seriously heavy head-trip. Perhaps this calls for a meditational marijuana brownie.

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