(Reuters Health) - People who had used marijuana in the past month had smaller waists and lower levels of insulin resistance - a diabetes precursor - than those who never tried the drug, in a new study.
The findings, based on surveys and blood tests of about 4,700 U.S. adults, aren't enough to prove marijuana keeps users thin or wards off disease. And among current pot smokers, higher amounts of marijuana use weren't linked to any added health benefits, researchers reported in The American Journal of Medicine.
"These are preliminary findings," said Dr. Murray Mittleman, who worked on the study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
"It looks like there may be some favorable effects on blood sugar control, however a lot more needs to be done to have definitive answers on the risks and potential benefits of marijuana usage."
Although pot smoking is a well-known cause of "the munchies," some previous studies have found marijuana users tend to weigh less than other people, and one suggested they have a lower rate of diabetes. Trials in mice and rats hint that cannabis and cannabinoid receptors may influence metabolism.
The new study used data from a national health survey conducted in 2005-2010. Researchers asked people about drug and alcohol use, as well as other aspects of their health and lifestyle, and measured their insulin and blood sugar levels.
Just under 2,000 participants said they had used marijuana at some point, but not recently. Another 600 or so were current users -- meaning they had smoked or otherwise consumed the drug in the past month.
Compared to people who had never used pot, current smokers had smaller waists: 36.9 inches versus 38.3 inches, on average. Current users also had a lower body mass index - a ratio of weight to height -- than never-users.
When other health and lifestyle measures were taken into account, recent pot use was linked to 17 percent lower insulin resistance, indicating better blood sugar control, and slightly higher HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.
However, there was no difference in blood pressure or blood fats based on marijuana use, Mittleman's team found.
A CAUSAL LINK?
Mittleman said that in his mind, it's still "preliminary" to say marijuana is likely to be responsible for any diabetes-related health benefits.
"It's possible that people who choose to smoke marijuana have other characteristics that differ (from non-marijuana smokers)," and those characteristics are what ultimately affect blood sugar and waist size, he told Reuters Health.
Dr. Stephen Sidney from the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, said he wonders if cigarette smoking may partially explain the association. Marijuana users are also more likely to smoke tobacco, he told Reuters Health.
"People who use tobacco oftentimes tend to be thinner," said Sidney, who has studied marijuana use and weight but didn't participate in the new study. "So I really wonder about that."
Another limitation with this and other studies, Sidney and Mittleman agreed, is that all of the data were collected at the same time, so it's unclear whether marijuana smoking or changes in waist size and blood sugar came first.
"The question is, is the marijuana leading to the lower rate (of diabetes) or do they have something in common?" said Dr. Theodore Friedman, who has studied that issue at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.
He and his colleagues think the link is probably causal. "But it's really hard to prove that," Friedman, who also wasn't involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.
One possibility is that the anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana help ward off diabetes, he said. But he agreed that more research is needed to draw out that link.
"I want to make it clear - I'm not advocating marijuana use to prevent diabetes," Friedman said. "It's only an association."
SOURCE: bit.ly/10Ty3La The American Journal of Medicine, online May 16, 2013.
by Dan Eden
"Don't smoke dope. It'll rot your brain." That's what the high school nuns at Cathedral High School used to tell me. Of course, most of the guys I hung out with had been smoking pot for years, many starting in their early teens. While smoking every day was sometimes bad for schoolwork and the wallet, it always seemed better than drinking beer. The "suds" crowd, as we "dopers" called the budding alcoholics, always seemed to be getting in fights and destined for a low rent life.
I smoked all through college and grad school. My grades didn't suffer and it seems that my stoned introspection allowed me to understand myself better and to develop more confidence. I tried other drugs like LSD and cocaine, but they never appealed to me like marijuana. It helped me to relax and "smell the roses" as I experienced life.
As time passed, the "bags" of grass I used to buy for twenty bucks changed to the plastic jewel cases of cultivated bud, with exotic names like "kush" and "goldylocks" -- and exotic prices. The same twenty bucks now bought only a two grams!
I found marijuana in almost every corner of the globe. In Yemen, China, Australia, Somalia, Brazil, Cambodia and even Iceland. There was always someone selling and using it. It seems endemic to humanity.
Somehow, with finding a job and starting a family, the regularity of smoking pot diminished. I never made a conscious decision to stop, it just happened. I was too busy doing other things. I couldn't say the same for my "suds" friends, whose full blown alcoholism netted them police records, divorces and stomach ulcers.
A couple of years ago my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It was a horrible experience both for him and me. He first forgot my name, then who I was, and ultimately lost himself. They told me at the time it was hereditary and possibly I had some genetic predisposition to his fate.
Recently, I saw a news item that showed how smoking marijuana can prevent Alzheimer's. It seems that the active ingredient in marijuana may prevent the progression of the disease by preserving levels of an important neurotransmitter that allows the brain to function.
Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California found that marijuana's active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, can prevent the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from breaking down more effectively than commercially marketed drugs.
THC is also more effective at blocking clumps of protein that can inhibit memory and cognition in Alzheimer's patients, the researchers reported in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.
The researchers said their discovery could lead to more effective drug treatment for Alzheimer's, the leading cause of dementia among the elderly. I am counting on that to keep my memories intact.
Possessing marijuana for recreational use is illegal in many parts of the world, including the United States, though some states allow possession for medical purposes. My friend Lee, for example, lives in California. Lee is one of the "dopers" who never allowed work or family to interfere with his smoking enjoyment. It has become a ritual that is the very fabric of his personality. He told me that he recently got a note from his doctor allowing him to legally buy marijuana in a "pot store." California is way ahead of other states. But he says the price is about the same as he used to pay on the street. While the illegality issues may be diminished, the price of marijuana is still prohibitive.
It's hard to tell if marijuana prices in California will drop in the near future.
Treating Alzheimer's is one of the major expenses facing our burdened health care system. It also caused immeasurable heartbreak to families. Let's hope that this new research will make marijuana available for preventive treatments of dementia and Alzheimer's at a cost that is accessible to the needy.
Advice for the public: If you've got 'em, smoke 'em.
Active Component Of Marijuana Has Anti-cancer Effects, Study Suggests
ScienceDaily (Apr. 9, 2009) — Guillermo Velasco and colleagues, at Complutense University, Spain, have provided evidence that suggests that cannabinoids such as the main active component of marijuana (THC) have anticancer effects on human brain cancer cells.
In the study, THC was found to induce the death of various human brain cancer cell lines and primary cultured human brain cancer cells by a process known as autophagy.
Consistent with the in vitro data, administration of THC to mice with human tumors decreased tumor growth and induced the tumor cells to undergo autophagy. As analysis of tumors from two patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme (a highly aggressive brain tumor) receiving intracranial THC administration showed signs of autophagy, the authors suggest that cannabinoid administration may provide a new approach to targeting human cancers.
Cannabinoid action induces autophagy-mediated cell death through stimulation of ER stress in human glioma cells.
Salazar et al. Cannabinoid action induces autophagy-mediated cell death through stimulation of ER stress in human glioma cells. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2009; DOI: 10.1172/JCI37948
Cannabis chemicals may help fight prostate cancer
By Ben HirschlerPosted 2009/08/19 at 2:22 am EDT LONDON, Aug. 19, 2009 (Reuters) -- Chemicals in cannabis have been found to stop prostate cancer cells from growing in the laboratory, suggesting that cannabis-based medicines could one day help fight the disease, scientists said Wednesday.
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www.tuftsmedicalcenter.orgRemedy Treatment & Relief For Instant Access Online To Cancer Treatment! www.back.com/treatmentAfter working initially with human cancer cell lines, Ines Diaz-Laviada and colleagues from the University of Alcala in Madrid also tested one compound on mice and discovered it produced a significant reduction in tumor growth.
Their research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, underlines the growing interest in the medical use of active chemicals called cannabinoids, which are found in marijuana.
Experts, however, stressed that the research was still exploratory and many more years of testing would be needed to work out how to apply the findings to the treatment of cancer in humans.
"This is interesting research which opens a new avenue to explore potential drug targets but it is at a very early stage," said Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, which owns the journal.
"It absolutely isn't the case that men might be able to fight prostate cancer by smoking cannabis," she added
The cannabinoids tested by the Spanish team are thought to work against prostate cancer because they block a receptor, or molecular doorway, on the surface of tumour cells. This stops them from dividing.
In effect, the cancer cell receptors can recognize and "talk to" chemicals found in cannabis, said Diaz-Laviada.
"These chemicals can stop the division and growth of prostate cancer cells and could become a target for new research into potential drugs to treat prostate cancer," she said.
Her team's work with two cannabinoids -- called methanandamide and JWH-015 -- is the first demonstration that such cannabis chemicals prevent cancer cells from multiplying.
Some drug companies are already exploring the possibilities of cannabinoids in cancer, including British-based cannabis medicine specialist GW Pharmaceuticals.
It is collaborating with Japan's Otsuka on early-stage research into using cannabis extracts to tackle prostate cancer -- the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men -- as well as breast and brain cancer.
GW has already developed an under-the-tongue spray called Sativex for the relief of some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, which it plans to market in Europe with Bayer and Almirall.
Other attempts to exploit the cannibinoid system have met with mixed success. Sanofi-Aventis was forced to withdraw its weight-loss drug Acomplia from the market last year because of links to mental disorders.
Marijuana might cause new cell growth in the brain
22:00 13 October 2005 by Kurt Kleiner
A synthetic chemical similar to the active ingredient in marijuana makes new cells grow in rat brains. What is more, in rats this cell growth appears to be linked with reducing anxiety and depression. The results suggest that marijuana, or its derivatives, could actually be good for the brain.
In mammals, new nerve cells are constantly being produced in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is associated with learning, memory, anxiety and depression. Other recreational drugs, such as alcohol, nicotine and cocaine, have been shown to suppress this new growth. Xia Zhang of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and colleagues decided to see what effects a synthetic cannabinoid called HU210 had on rats' brains.
They found that giving rats high doses of HU210 twice a day for 10 days increased the rate of nerve cell formation, or neurogenesis, in the hippocampus by about 40%.
Just like Prozac?
A previous study showed that the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) also increases new cell growth, and the results indicated that it was this cell growth that caused Prozac's anti-anxiety effect. Zhang wondered whether this was also the case for the cannabinoid, and so he tested the rats for behavioural changes.
When the rats who had received the cannabinoid were placed under stress, they showed fewer signs of anxiety and depression than rats who had not had the treatment. When neurogenesis was halted in these rats using X-rays, this effect disappeared, indicating that the new cell growth might be responsible for the behavioural changes.
In another study, Barry Jacobs, a neuroscientist at Princeton University, gave mice the natural cannabinoid found in marijuana, THC (D9-tetrahydrocannabinol)). But he says he detected no neurogenesis, no matter what dose he gave or the length of time he gave it for. He will present his results at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington DC in November.
Jacobs says it could be that HU210 and THC do not have the same effect on cell growth. It could also be the case that cannabinoids behave differently in different rodent species - which leaves open the question of how they behave in humans.
Zhang says more research is needed before it is clear whether cannabinoids could some day be used to treat depression in humans.
Journal reference: Journal of Clinical Investigation (DOI:10.1172/JCI25509)
Cannabis Hope for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2009) -- Chemicals found in cannabis could prove an effective treatment for the inflammatory bowel diseases Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease, say scientists.
Laboratory tests have shown that two compounds found in the cannabis plant -- the cannabinoids THC and cannabidiol -- interact with the body's system that controls gut function.
Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, which affect about one in every 250 people in Northern Europe, are caused by both genetic and environmental factors. The researchers believe that a genetic susceptibility coupled with other triggers, such as diet, stress or bacterial imbalance, leads to a defective immune response.
Dr Karen Wright, Peel Trust Lecturer in Biomedicine at Lancaster University, presented her soon-to-be published work at The British Pharmacological Society's Winter Meeting in London.
She said: "The lining of the intestines provides a barrier against the contents of the gut but in people with Crohn's Disease this barrier leaks and bacteria can escape into the intestinal tissue leading to an inappropriate immune response.
"If we could find a way to restore barrier integrity in patients we may be able to curb the inflammatory immune response that causes these chronic conditions."
Dr Wright, working with colleagues at the School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health in Derby, has shown that cells that react to cannabinoid compounds play an important role in normal gut function as well as the immune system's inflammatory response.
"The body produces its own cannabinoid molecules, called endocannabinoids, which we have shown increase the permeability of the epithelium during inflammation, implying that overproduction may be detrimental," said Dr Wright.
"However, we were able to reverse this process using plant-derived cannabinoids, which appeared to allow the epithelial cells to form tighter bonds with each other and restore the membrane barrier."
The research was carried out using cell cultures in a dish but, interestingly, when the team attempted to mimic the conditions of the gut by reducing the amount of oxygen in the cells' environment, much lower concentrations of cannabinoid were needed to produce the same effect.
Dr Wright added: "What is also encouraging is that while THC has psychoactive properties and is responsible for the 'high' people experience when using cannabis, cannabidiol, which has also proved effective in restoring membrane integrity, does not possess such properties."
Studies Show Marijuana Has 'Therapeutic Value'; Research Reported to California Legislature
ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2010) — Researchers from the University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) have found "reasonable evidence that cannabis is a promising treatment" for some specific, pain-related medical conditions. Their findings, presented February 17 to the California legislature and public, are included in a report available on the CMCR web site.
"We focused on illnesses where current medical treatment does not provide adequate relief or coverage of symptoms," explained CMCR director, Igor Grant, MD, Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the UCSD School of Medicine. "These findings provide a strong, science-based context in which policy makers and the public can begin discussing the place of cannabis in medical care."
Researchers have completed five scientific clinical trials, with more in progress. These studies showed that cannabis can be helpful in easing pain in selected syndromes caused by injury or diseases of the nervous system and possibly for painful muscle spasms due to multiple sclerosis.
"These scientists created an unparalleled program of systematic research, focused on science-based answers rather than political or social beliefs," said Senator John Vasconcellos, original author of The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 1999 (SB847) which led to the creation of the CMCR.
Study results have been published in high-impact medical journals, garnering national and international attention which prompted leading experts to come together and foster scientific dialog on the possible uses of cannabis as a therapeutic agent. More study will be necessary to figure out the mechanisms of action and the full therapeutic potential of cannabinoid compounds, according to the UC researchers.