Everyone knows someone who is diabetic!
Either the person we know had always been diabetic – that is he/she could be Type 1 diabetic, an autoimmune disease that one is born with,
He has acquired this condition during the course of his or her life – Meaning he or she is Type 2 diabetic, caused due to poor nourishment, imbalanced diet or sedentary lifestyle.
This is how prevalent this disease really is:
- Almost 10% of America’s population suffers from diabetes.
- It is reportedly more prevalent among the Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic population.
But the rest aren’t in the clear either!
These days, a lot of Caucasian children also suffer from type 2 diabetes from a very early age – mostly due to poor nourishment or bad lifestyle. In fact, over 400 million people across the world are now affected by Type 2 diabetes alone.
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Can CBD oil really cure diabetes? What does science say?
You may have heard a lot about the incredible therapeutic qualities of CBD oil. But what you did not hear is that no extensive advanced clinical trials have been conducted on CBD’s effects on diabetes so far. In spite of that, a lot of diabetic patients use CBD oil to help manage their condition.
But, doctors aren’t too keen on prescribing it to their patients, as scientists haven’t been able to clearly establish the physiological connection between CBD and diabetes yet.
So, why does diabetes occur?
Humans, like most other animals, require energy to survive. Our body utilizes the glucose content in our diet to produce energy. But there are times when our body is simply unable to do so. Medically speaking, this is when our pancreas can’t produce a sufficient amount of the enzyme called insulin that metabolizes glucose.
This glucose is then dumped into your bloodstream, while the rest of your body is deprived of the much-needed energy to survive. This increases our blood sugar or blood glucose level, leading to diabetes.
Diabetes can be effectively managed if caught in time. But if left untreated, it can lead to loads of other diseases and conditions, including:
- Loss of consciousness
- Extreme thirst and dryness of mouth
- Visual disturbances
- Eye conditions, like cataract & glaucoma
- High blood pressure
- Fatigue, breathlessness
- Dryness of skin
- Higher risk of infection
- Slow healing of wounds
- Pancreas malfunction
- Excessive & frequent urination
- Kidney damage
- Foot problems
- Risk of nerve damage
- Damaged blood vessels
- High risk of heart diseases, and even
Not only do these diseases reduce our quality of life, but they can also be life-threatening.
Now, coming back to the real question:
Can CBD oil really “cure” diabetes? Probably not!
But tests on animals have led us to believe that it may be able to decrease or control the incidence of the disease through an “immunomodulatory mechanism”.
Here are some studies that attribute CBD for playing a therapeutic role in managing diabetes and its symptoms.
- In a study, published in the journal Autoimmunity in 2006, CBD showed positive signs of reducing diabetic symptoms in non-obese mice by 56% and significantly reducing inflammation (1). According to the authors, cannabidiol (CBD) treatment has also led to a significant reduction in the inflammation-causing proteins in the body. They concluded that CBD can inhibit and delay inflammation of pancreatic tissue that causes diabetes.
- A research scientist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by the name of Dr. Raphael Mechoulam has discovered that endocannabinoid receptors that are known to be found all over our body – from the brain and the nervous system to several organs, endocrine glands, and the immune cells – are also found in high concentration in our pancreas, especially in its islets – exactly where insulin is produced. In fact, it has also been found that these receptors in the pancreas islets can be stimulated to produce insulin. A study (2) that was published in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism in 2016, clearly suggested an association of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system with obesity, insulin resistance, and type-2 diabetes. They found “mounting evidence” indicating the involvement of an “overactive endocannabinoid system with the development of diabetes and insulin resistance (Also read 6).
Although this does not point to these receptors directly controlling insulin production or CBD being the cure for diabetes, it certainly seems to indicate that these receptors may play a crucial role in the production of insulin.
However, a lot more research still needs to be done to find any conclusive evidence of the physiological mechanisms and the exact chemical pathways responsible for the changes that CBD has been credited for by so many people.
An Interesting Turn In Scientific Research
A preliminary study (3) conducted on humans has yielded some very promising results. So much so, it prompted Dr. Joseph Alpert of the American Journal of Medicine to seek increased funding and collaboration from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) for research on CBD’s effects on diabetic patients.
The same study, which was deemed by many as the first of its kind to “investigate the relationship between marijuana, glucose, and insulin resistance”, also prompted some Harvard Health researchers to associate marijuana use with a decrease in insulin resistance as well as an improvement in the overall blood sugar levels in the bloodstream.
In January 2018, Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Peter Grinspoon referenced this study (3) to point out that cannabis use can directly help regulate blood sugar levels, waist size, and body mass index (BMI), all of which are crucial to prevention and control of Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes.
Does this mean CBD oil can act as a good preventive to diabetes? Let’s see what some other researchers found out.
- A study, which was conducted on over 4,657 test subjects in 2013, led researchers to discover a “significant link between the regular use of marijuana and better blood sugar control”. They noted that regular cannabis users displayed:
- A 16% reduction in fasting insulin levels
- A 17% decrease in insulin resistance levels
- Increased levels of HDL-Cholesterol
- Smaller overall waist circumference (an implication of reduced instances of obesity)
Subjects who had used cannabis in some form or other in their lifetime, but were currently not on it, showed similar but diminished associations, leading researchers to conclude that cannabis’ “protective effect” fades with time.
Note that this was not a test on the effects of CBD oil, but of marijuana as a whole.
However, an Israeli-American biopharmaceutical company in 2015 began stage 2 trials on the use of CBD to treat diabetes. Their research did succeed in demonstrating the phytocannabinoid’s role in converting white fat into weight-reducing brown fat, promoting normal insulin production and sugar metabolism (5&6).
But, these studies are still, in no way, conclusive enough for doctors to prescribe CBD oil as a treatment method.
While we may still not have sufficient data from clinical human trials on CBD’s direct effect in treating human diabetic patients, there has certainly been a good indication that it may be able to them help manage some of the symptoms of diabetes. Besides, it can also help curb the potentially more dangerous conditions and diseases (mentioned earlier) that diabetes can cause.
Other ways CBD can help diabetic patients
The good news is that some concrete evidence has indeed been found on CBD’s role in helping with some of the underlying symptoms of diabetes, which may aid in preventing any resultant complication in the patient’s condition or his condition to take a more serious, life-threatening turn.
- Preventing inflammation: As previously discussed, a prominent factor behind the development of insulin resistance among Type 2 diabetic patients is chronic inflammation related to obesity. The excessive amount of fatty tissue found in the obese Type 2 diabetic patients limits the body’s efficiency to metabolize glucose to a great extent, leading to high levels of sugar build-up in the bloodstream. CBD’s anti-inflammatory qualities have for long been known to directly combat glucose metabolic disorders and improve overall metabolism (4).
- Reducing the risk of heart disease: In a 2010 study (7), scientists found that treating diabetic (Type 1) mice with heart disease with CBD reduced oxidative stress and prevented heart damage. The study results, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, suggested that CBD oil may have “great therapeutic potential in the treatment of diabetic complications”, perhaps even other cardiovascular disorders, by reducing the intensity of oxidative/nitrosative stress, inflammation, cell death, and fibrosis.
- Curbing nerve damage: Nerve damage is another potential fall-out of diabetes. Many a time, diabetic patients have limited sensation in their lower extremities, and in some severe cases, even amputation of a leg becomes necessary to the patient’s survival. This is due to insufficient blood flow that eventually results in the breakdown of tissue and an increased risk of infection. CBD, which is a federally patented neuroprotectant, has shown evidence of reducing infarcts, or areas of dead tissue formed due to lack of blood flow, by up to 30%. (8,9 &10)
- Managing neuropathy pain: Neuropathy or nerve pain that mostly affects the legs and feet (but may also develop in other body parts) is often extremely painful and can be fatal in some cases. According to a 2015 study, published in the journal Pain, people experiencing diabetic neuropathic foot pain can get quite a bit, if only temporary, relief (like for several hours) on inhaling cannabis (15). Interestingly, the presence of THC in CBD oil only helped manage their pain better. Besides, a 2014 study (16) found that on directly applying cannabis oil, having both CBD and THC, (in the form of spray or cream) on the affected areas led to reduced symptoms in patients suffering from pain and tingling sensation that are commonly associated with diabetic neuropathy.
- Preventing retinopathy: CBD has also been found to preserve the integrity of retinal blood vessels in diabetic patients, leading to the prevention of blindness. Vision-threatening retinopathy is rare among type 1 diabetic patients within the first 3 to 5 years of diabetes or before puberty. However, the risk spikes during the next two decades. Nearly all type 1 diabetic patient develop retinopathy. In fact, around 21% of patients with type-2 diabetes have been found to have retinopathy at the time of the first diagnosis of diabetes. Most of these patients develop some degree of retinopathy over time (12). Diabetic retinopathy, which is associated with the breakdown of blood vessel walls in your retina as well as neurotoxicity, are due to oxidative stress and inflammation-causing proteins called cytokines.
In a study, published in the American Journal of Pathology in 2006, the protective effects of cannabidiol (CBD) were examined on diabetic rats after 1, 2, or 4 weeks. CBD treatment significantly reduced oxidative stress, decreased the levels of tumor-forming protein agents that also lead to inflammation, and prevented retinal cell death and stopped blood vessel porosity in the diabetic retina. Hence, it was proved that CBD can reduce neurotoxicity, inflammation, and breakdown of retinal blood vessels in diabetic animals by inhibiting the inflammation-causing cytokines (11). Besides, Cannabis compounds have also been shown to considerably reduce pressure build-up within the eye in people with glaucoma (an eye disorder caused by diabetic retinopathy).
- Prevent Nephropathy: Diabetes is one of the leading causes of renal or kidney failure among adults in America. Hyperglycemia sets off a series of chemical reactions within the body that ultimately leads to diabetic nephropathy. There is strong evidence of the presence of the endocannabinoid receptors in the kidney and that CBD can inhibit nephrotoxicity and diabetic nephropathy (20) (also read 6).
- Curbing obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes (17). It is believed that hyperactivity of the CB1 receptors (of the endocannabinoid system) in the fat tissue throughout the body could contribute to obesity and metabolic risks like high blood pressure. CBD seems to block these receptors, thereby reducing the risk of obesity. Studies show that cannabinoids have the potential to reduce the risk of obesity. A 2013 study of 4,657 people, including 579 current marijuana users and 1,975 past users, has revealed a link between smaller waist size and marijuana use. On average, people who were still using marijuana had a waist circumference that was 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) less than that of people who were not (13). This goes to prove some earlier research that deduced that obesity was less prevalent among people who used cannabis (14). Besides, we have earlier established how CBD helps in turning white fat (which is harmful) to brown fat (which is beneficial for the body). CBD, unlike THC that promotes appetite, is believed to reduce appetite and, in turn, reduce the hunger pangs associated with obesity.
- Reducing blood cholesterol and blood pressure: A review, published in ‘Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research’ noted some key points on the benefits of CBD on metabolic factors. For example, CBD treatment reduces total cholesterol by 25 percent in obese rats, decreases blood sugar levels and increases markers for liver health (18). Over time, CBD and other cannabinoids have also been seen to lower blood pressure. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease and other diabetes complications (19).
Risks of CBD oil to diabetic patients?
Using cannabis products, even if it is only CBD oil, can have some adverse effects on diabetic patients. Considering the fact that CBD oil still contains traces of THC, an increased appetite can defeat the whole purpose for obese patients. Also, if cannabinoids can affect the metabolic system and insulin sensitivity, frequent use may also disrupt these functions, especially if the patients are children or young adults.
Then, again abnormally low blood sugar levels can also be detrimental to the health of diabetic patients. When the blood floods with too much insulin, a person can suffer from low sugar in the absence of insufficient glucose level in the body. You will know if this is the case, if you experience symptoms like:
- Rapid heartbeat
Especially in case of marijuana users, healthcare professionals may mistakenly attribute symptoms of low blood sugar level to marijuana use, and miss the signs of a potential health emergency, leading to the patient’s death.
Type-1 patient Gary Scheiner in Pennsylvania, who is also a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and an author of several books, cites latest statistics to point out that nearly 30% of people with diabetes aged between 16 and 30 have tried marijuana at least once.
While it may not have as strong a link to cancer as tobacco does, it can certainly have devastating effects on the cognitive functions and can affect diabetes control adversely by:
- Impairing a patient’s judgment (resulting in obliviousness of dropping insulin levels or inaccurate insulin dosing).
- Increasing appetite and leading to binge eating (in turn resulting in obesity).
- Contaminations (CBD oil is not regulated) like lead can contribute to early-onset of renal failure.
While CBD products may be becoming quite the talk of the town, not everything is as simple or exciting as it seems. Firstly, diabetic patients should never self-medicate. They must not use CBD oil just because their friends or peers think it will help them. It is not like using some herbal oil to masse your dry skin.
CBD is, after all, a cannabinoid – a cannabinoid, which if consumed or used otherwise, may have a far much deeper effect on our physiology than we can imagine. Being diabetic means being more vulnerable to infections and other more serious physical complications, meaning your body isn’t that of a healthy person. It will be detrimental to try CBD oil or any of the cannabidiol variants without the recommendation of your physician.
Admittedly, CBD does seem to help with some of the symptoms and resultant complications of diabetes. However, only your physician, who is acquainted with your medical condition and who, at least, has some experience in using and treating patients with CBD, can determine if your body is equipped to handle an external cannabinoid (CBD is a phytocannabinoid, our body has its own set of endocannabinoids). He alone can gauge if using CBD oil will help you at all.
- Autoimmunity. March 2006; 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; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16698671
- Journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism; June 30, 2016; Endocannabinoid regulation of β-cell functions: implications for glycaemic control and diabetes; T. Jourdan, G. Godlewski, and G. Kunos, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5045244/
- American Journal of Medicine, July 2013; The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults; Penner EA1, Buettner H, Mittleman MA; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23684393
- Journal Diabetologia. Aug 2008; The endocannabinoid system in obesity and type 2 diabetes; Di Marzo V1; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18563385
- Abigail Klein Leichman, “Cannabis Extract to Be Used to Treat Diabetes,” Israel 21c, April 21, 2015, www.israel21c.org/cannabis-extract -to-be-used-to-treat-diabetes/
- British Journal of Pharmacology. Aug 20, 2015; Role of the endocannabinoid system in diabetes and diabetic complications; G Gruden, F Barutta, G Kunos, and P Pacher; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4941127/
- Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Author manuscript; Dec 14 2010; Cannabidiol attenuates cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, fibrosis, inflammatory and cell death signaling pathways in diabetic cardiomyopathy; Mohanraj Rajesh, PhD, Partha Mukhopadhyay, PhD, Sándor Bátkai, MD, PhD, Vivek Patel, Keita Saito, PhD, Shingo Matsumoto, PhD, Yoshihiro Kashiwaya, MD, PhD, Béla Horváth, MD, PhD, Bani Mukhopadhyay, PhD, Lauren Becker, György Haskó, MD, PhD, Lucas Liaudet, MD, David A Wink, Aristidis Veves, MD, Raphael Mechoulam, PhD, and Pál Pacher, MD, PhD, FAPS, FAHA; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3026637/
- Journal Stroke; Apr 21, 2005; Cannabidiol prevents cerebral infarction via a serotonergic 5-hydroxytryptamine1A receptor-dependent mechanism; Mishima K, Hayakawa K, Abe K, Ikeda T, Egashira N, Iwasaki K, Fujiwara M; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15845890/
- British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, May 25, 2012; Cannabidiol for neurodegenerative disorders: important new clinical applications for this phytocannabinoid?; Javier Fernández-Ruiz, Onintza Sagredo, M Ruth Pazos, Concepción García, Roger Pertwee, Raphael Mechoulam, and José Martínez-Orgado; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3579248/
- Neuroreport, Oct 25, 2004; Cannabidiol prevents infarction via the non-CB1 cannabinoid receptor mechanism; Hayakawa K, Mishima K, Abe K, Hasebe N, Takamatsu F, Yasuda H, Ikeda T, Inui K, Egashira N, Iwasaki K, Fujiwara M.; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Cannabidiol+prevents+infarction+via+the+non-CB1+cannabinoid+receptor+mechanism+Neuroreport
- American Journal of Pathology; Jan 2006; Neuroprotective and blood-retinal barrier-preserving effects of cannabidiol in experimental diabetes; El-Remessy AB, Al-Shabrawey M, Khalifa Y, Tsai NT, Caldwell RB, Liou GI; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16400026
- Position Statements, Diabetic Retinopathy; Donald S. Fong, MD, MPH, Lloyd Aiello, MD, PHD, Thomas W. Gardner, MD, George L. King, MD, George Blankenship, MD, Jerry D. Cavallerano, OD, PHD, Fredrick L. Ferris III, MD, Ronald Klein, MD, MPH and for the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care Jan 2003; https://doi.org/10.2337/diacare.26.2007.S99 http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/suppl_1/s99
- The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults; Elizabeth A. Penner, MD, MPH, Hannah Buettner, BA, Murray A. Mittleman, MD, DrPH; PlumX Metrics, American Journal of Medicine, July 2013; https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(13)00200-3/abstract?cc=y=
American Journal of Epidemiology; Obesity and Cannabis Use: Results From 2 Representative National Surveys; August 24, 2011;
- J Pain, July 2015; Efficacy of Inhaled Cannabis on Painful Diabetic Neuropathy; Wallace MS, Marcotte TD, Umlauf A, Gouaux B, Atkinson JH. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25843054
- European Journal of Pain, January 13, 2014; A double‐blind, randomized, placebo‐controlled, parallel group study of THC/CBD spray in peripheral neuropathic pain treatment; M. Serpell S. Ratcliffe J. Hovorka M. Schofield L. Taylor H. Lauder E. Ehler; https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/j.1532-2149.2013.00445.x
- Frontiers in Endocrinology, April 2018; LH-21, A Peripheral Cannabinoid Receptor 1 Antagonist, Exerts Favorable Metabolic Modulation Including Antihypertensive Effect in KKAy Mice by Regulating Inflammatory Cytokines and Adipokines on Adipose Tissue; Ziqi Dong, Hui Gong, Yadan Chen, Hong Wu, Jun Wu, Yinghong Deng, and Xinmao Song; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5920035/
- Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, June 2017; An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies; Kerstin Iffland*, and Franjo Grotenhermen; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/
- JCI Insight, Jun 15, 2017; A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study; Khalid A. Jadoon, Garry D. Tan, and Saoirse E. O’Sullivan; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5470879/
The American Journal of Pathology, February 2012; The Endocannabinoid System and Plant-Derived Cannabinoids in Diabetes and Diabetic Complications; Béla Horváth, Partha Mukhopadhyay, György Haskó, and Pál Pacher; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3349875/