In recent times, there’s been a large rise in the use of cannabis and CBD oil for treating a whole range of diseases. That’s why we think it’s definitely worth a look to find out which diseases this ‘miracle plant’ might be able to help with. Today, we’re going to take a look at the possibility of using CBD oil as a possible treatment for diabetes.
Diabetes – a modern day epidemic
Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which blood sugar levels become dangerously high. The cause of this is a deficient insulin mechanism, either due to a lack of insulin secretion or due to insulin not working properly.
Insulin is a hormone that the body uses to keep blood sugar levels in check. This is necessary because chronically elevated levels of blood sugar damage the cells of our body. This can lead to organ failure and even death if left untreated.
Furthermore, diabetes can cause further complications, such as heart disease or stroke.
Diabetes is a true modern day epidemic. It’s estimated that about 400 million people worldwide suffer from the disease. 5 million people die each year as a result of diabetes.
Although modern medicine has come far in treating the disease, it’s always worthwhile to try and find new ways to help patients. This is where cannabinoids, in particular CBD, can play a role.
Diabetes comes in all shapes and sizes
There are two main types of diabetes
In type-1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells of the pancreas, which are responsible for producing insulin. Because of this, the body becomes unable to produce the hormone, leading to an increase in blood sugar levels, which is extremely harmful to the body. Type-1 diabetics have to inject insulin for the rest of their life. The biggest symptoms of type-1 diabetes are:
- Having to go to the bathroom often
- Increased thirst
- Rapid weight loss
Type-1 diabetes usually occurs in children or young adults, although older people can get it too. Type-1 diabetes is also the rarest form of the disease. It affects about 10 percent of all diabetics.
The other version of diabetes, type-2, is the most common one. About 90 % of all diabetics suffer from this form of diabetes. In contrast with type-1, type-2 usually manifests later in life, mostly in people who are past their forties.
Type-2 diabetes differs from type-1 in two ways. In type-2 diabetes, the pancreas is still able to produce insulin, although it can’t produce as much as before. Also, the insulin that the body can make isn’t as effective either. This is because the cells in the body become resistant to its effects over time.
Type-2 diabetes is usually caused by being overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle, although hereditary factors can play a role as well.
It’s also a lot harder to diagnose type-2 diabetes than it is to diagnose type-1. In the early stages, people often don’t show any visible symptoms. Later, as the disease progresses further, the symptoms become similar as in those with type-1. There are subtle symptoms that allow diagnosis of type-2 in the early phases. For example, wounds heal very slowly, and frequent infections of the bladder or the genital organs can occur.
However, it’s much easier to prevent type-2 diabetes by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet and making sure you move a lot works wonders in preventing type-2 diabetes.
Besides type-1 and type-2, there are other, less common forms of diabetes, such as pregnancy diabetes.
Cannabinoids and diabetes – what’s the connection?
Cannabinoids, like CBD, work by helping the endocannabinoid system work properly.
The endocannabinoid system tries to keep all systems in our body in balance. One of the key roles it plays is maintaining energy balance in the body. When energy intake is too high, the endocannabinoid system becomes disrupted, which in turn leads to more accumulation of fat and more excess energy intake. This negative feedback loop sustains itself and deteriorates metabolic health.
Over time, this leads to metabolic disease, such as obesity and diabetes. It’s because of this link that CBD oil, as well as all the other phytocannabinoids like THC, can exert their positive effects on these diseases.
At first, scientists believed that the endocannabinoid system only regulated energy intake. However, later research showed that it is both responsible for storing energy as well as regulating energy expenditure, by regulating lipid and glucose metabolism.
What this means for you is, that if your endocannabinoid system becomes unbalanced, you’re more likely to get fat. In the end, this could lead to getting diabetes.
What does the research say?
Research has shown that cannabinoids like CBD can be effective in treating both type-1, as well as type-2 diabetes.
Let’s take a look at some of the research that has been done on how taking external phytocannabinoids, like CBD, might benefit you.
There are a few early studies done on mice that show many promising effects of CBD on improving diabetes.
In a study done in 2006, two groups of non-obese diabetic type rats were studied. One group of mice was treated with CBD, while the other served as a control group that didn’t receive any treatment. In the group of CBD-treated mice, only 30 % became diabetic, while that number was 86 % in the non-treated group. That’s a whopping 50 % difference!
In mice that already had diabetes, the use of CBD showed a significant improvement of symptoms and also slowed down the onset of the disease.
Another study on diabetic mice showed a reduction in inflammation as well as neuroprotective effects after CBD treatment.
A common side effect of diabetes is that it damages the eyes. This leads to a complication called diabetic retinopathy, which leads to blindness over time. A study done in 2006 shows that giving CBD to diabetic rats significantly reduced the rate of retinal cell death.
Other studies have shown improved endothelial function as a result of CBD and cannabinoid treatment, thereby improving the health of blood vessels in diabetics, as well as reducing neuropathic pain,as a result of diabetes and reducing hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia.
What about human studies?
Since all of the above studies were done in mice, the positive effects might not completely translate into similar effects in humans.
Although there aren’t a lot of studies on the topic yet, the available research done on humans shows some very promising results.
A study done in 2011 that discusses the link between the endocannabinoid system and obesity, concluded that ‘evidence is emerging that some nonpsychotropic plant cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, can be employed to retard β-cell damage in type 1 diabetes’.
Also, while previous epidemiological studies found a lower prevalence of obesity and diabetes in users of marijuana compared to non-users, these studies were unable to establish a direct causal link. To settle the matter, they performed another study in 2013.
This study found a strong association of marijuana use and a reduced waist circumference. In marijuana users, levels of fasting insulin were 16 percent lower and levels of insulin resistance were 17 percent lower. Levels of fasting insulin and insulin resistance are common markers that indicate a risk of getting diabetes.
Former users had similar results, although the effects were less noticeable. Because of this, the researchers believed that the positive effects wear off over time when marijuana use is stopped.
In short, the available studies show a strong correlation between using CBD and cannabinoids and lower incidence of diabetes and metabolic disease in humans.
In short, can CBD help fight diabetes?
Based on the research cited above, possible mechanisms for the positive effects of CBD oil on diabetes include:
- Lowering inflammation, which plays a key part in developing insulin resistance
- Stabilizing blood sugar levels
- Reducing neuropathy, a common side effect of diabetes
- Vasodilation, thereby keeping blood vessels open and improving blood flow. This in turn will lower blood pressure, which is very important for diabetics
In truth, the research is still in its infancy. More studies are needed to prove the positive effects of CBD and cannabinoids on diabetes and other metabolic diseases.
That being said, the evidence we do have looks pretty good. In any case, if you have diabetes, we don’t think it would hurt to give CBD oil a try. Nevertheless, we advise that you always consult a medical professional before trying any kind of treatment.