Researchers are learning more every day about how CBD in cannabis can affect pancreatic cells that make glucagon – a key factor in diabetes research.
Scientific research into the effects of cannabinoids on pancreatic cells continues to yield promising results. While the findings thus far are preliminary, they are captivating enough to promote further study. Why? Maintaining healthy function in pancreatic cells that make glucagon is integral to preventing and treating diabetes.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), just over one in ten Americans has diabetes, amounting to over 34 million Americans. In 2017, it was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. The associated healthcare costs in treating the disease was over $300 billion that year.
This deadly disease is often difficult to treat, and involves carefully monitoring blood-glucose levels. Further, there are two different kinds of diabetes — type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing beta cells. These beta cells, called islets, normally produce insulin. But when attacked by inflammatory cells called Th1 lymphocytes, they are damaged and destroyed.
Type 2 diabetes refers to patients with an insulin resistance. This leads to glucose in the bloodstream, because the body is unable to use the insulin produced by the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, though type 2 diabetes can be reversed. Both types can also be controlled with proper blood-glucose management. In some cases, pharmaceutical medication is necessary.
What Studies Show About Cannabis and Pancreatic Cells
Research shows that there is no correlation between cannabis consumption and later onset of diabetes. However, cannabinoids could potentially help treat Type 1 diabetes through their ability to stop the destruction of islets — the pancreatic cells that make glucagon. Danielsson, A K, et al. “Cannabis Use as Risk or Protection for Type 2 Diabetes: A Longitudinal Study of 18 000 Swedish Men and Women.” Journal of Diabetes Research, Hindawi Publishing … Continue reading
Further research suggests that thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties inherent in cannabinoids like CBD, there may be another way to employ cannabis to help treat type 1 diabetes. A study in Autoimmunity (2007) tested non-obese diabetes prone mice by administering CBD before they contracted diabetes. Researchers found that only thirty percent of the animal population treated with CBD developed diabetes, whereas eighty-six percent of the placebo group were diagnosed with the disease. Ronne, et al. “Cannabidiol Lowers Incidence of Diabetes in Non-Obese Diabetic Mice.” Taylor & amp; Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08916930500356674?journalCode=iaut20.
The Potential Positives of Anti-Inflammatory Medicine
The researchers also discovered that circulatory pro-inflammatory markers INF-g and TNF-a were lower, possibly due to the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD. The authors also note that anti-inflammatory markers IL-4 and IL-10 were higher. Histological examination shows a reduction in inflammation with fewer Th-1 markers — the inflammatory cells that destroy insulin producing islets.
A subsequent study revealed that not only could CBD potentially help delay onset of type 1 diabetes, but it might also provide meaningful therapy in treating the disease. Published in Neuropharmacology (2008), the study tested mice in a latent stage of diabetes, or showing early symptoms of the disease.
The researchers observed that CBD significantly reduced pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-12 and increased anti-inflammatory IL-10. During their histological examination, they found more intact islets in the mice treated with CBD than in the placebo control population. Weiss, Lola, et al. “Cannabidiol Arrests Onset of Autoimmune Diabetes in NOD Mice.” Neuropharmacology, Pergamon, 17 July 2007, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0028390807001888.
Cannabis and Type 2 Diabetes
Researchers have found similar promising results regarding cannabis and type 2 diabetes. A study in Diabetologia (2016) discovered that CBD can modulate a non-cannabinoid receptor called GPR55 in mice. This fatty acid g-protein coupled receptor affects blood-glucose control. Scientists found that administration of CBD resulted in lower blood glucose and plasma glucagon.
Not only that, but long term treatment with CBD also improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, suggesting that this cannabinoid could potentially help patients with type 2 diabetes. Rayasam, et al. “Metabolic Effects of Orally Administered Small-Molecule Agonists of GPR55 and GPR119 in Multiple Low-Dose Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic and Incretin-Receptor-Knockout Mice.” … Continue reading
The Future for Cannabinoid and Diabetes Research
Replicating the results of these results is the next step in discerning whether researchers can use cannabis to treat diabetes in human patients.
Another study published in Diabetes Care (2016) sought to do just that. They conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on sixty-two human subjects who were diagnosed with non-insulin treated type 2 diabetes. Jadoon, Khalid A., et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, … Continue reading
The researchers tested cannabinoids CBD and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) to see how they affected glucose and pancreatic cell function. They found that compared against the placebo, THCV significantly decreased fasting glucose, while also improving the function of pancreatic cells. CBD did not produce results as impressive as THCV, though it did show a positive effect on resistance and gut-hormone concentrations.
Further Research on Cannabis and Pancreatic Cells that Make Glucagon
The authors of the study concluded that THCV produced an ability to control glucose that warrants further research. Indeed, more human trials are necessary. These will hopefully deduce which cannabinoids can be most effective in treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Further, while animal studies can be captivating, they are not always replicable among humans.
However, the future of cannabis research in human trials is promising. The patient population in the Diabetes Care study tolerated both THCV and CBD well. This is likely due to the low toxicity level of each cannabinoid. The safety profile of cannabis will only continue to lend itself toward increased scientific research.