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Marijuana-Blood Sugar: New Study Suggest Smokers are Thinner, Have Better Blood Sugar Levels

Update Date: May 23, 2013 08:53 PM EDT

Marijuana users were found to have better blood sugar levels, were thinner and had a higher insulin resistance, according to a study released Thursday.

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston has found that those who use marijuana may have lower levels of insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes, according to the study published in the American Journal of Medicine. Titled  "The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among U.S. Adults," the study looked at blood sugar-related effects of cannabis use among participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2010.

The results come from a comparison of insulin and glucose levels in both groups. Participants that had used pot in the last month had much lower levels of fasting insulin and higher levels of so-called "good" cholesterol HDL-C -- which may mean big news for diabetics.

"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."

However, smoking marijuana  is linked to an increase in appetite, often referred to as "the munchies," but 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 study examined participants waists and found that those 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.

"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.

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