The following first appeared in Cannabis Now:
A group of over 200 French researchers and investigators recently released a new study that shows that a history of cannabis use in patients co-infected with HIV and Hepatitis C lowers the risk for insulin resistance (IR).
The study, published in the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, outlines the experiment that utilized a nationwide sample of HIV/HVC co-infected patients and asked them about their history of cannabis use over a 60-month period. The researchers tested the patients over this time period to check for the levels of insulin that their bodies were accepting.
The results show that in the patients that were known to use cannabis in their lifetime — regardless of the frequency or the amount that was ingested — were close to three times less likely to develop a resistance to insulin compared to the patients that did not use any kind of cannabis product.
“This is the first longitudinal study documenting the relationship between the reduced risk of IR and cannabis in a population particularly concerned by IR risk,” the authors of the study explained. “The results were robust as they were confirmed in three sensitivity analyses.”
For patients co-infected with HIV and Hepatitis C, the risk for resisting insulin can be a grave one. Patients who have HVC infection are associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Even with type 2 diabetes being a health concern in itself, the formation of insulin resistance can make patients also more resistant to interferon-based anti-HCV therapies. As the formation of some form of insulin resistance is the leading cause of contracting type 2 diabetes, such a drastic reduction in resistance formation simply from some amount of cannabis use could mean a new way of life for a lot of patients.
A similar study from Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston reported very similar results. The study utilized over 4,600 male test subjects, testing them for some form of relationship between the use of cannabis and fasting insulin, glucose and insulin resistance in their bodies.
The results were very similar. According to reports subjects, “who reported using marijuana in the past month had lower levels of fasting insulin and HOMA-IR [insulin resistance], as well as smaller waist circumferences and higher levels of HDL-C [high-density lipoprotein or ‘good’ cholesterol]. These associations were attenuated among those who reported using marijuana at least once, but not in the past 30 days, suggesting that the impact of marijuana use on insulin and insulin resistance exists during periods of recent use.”
The French study, named the ANRS CO13 HEPAVIH study, focuses on studies that involve patients infected with HIV and/or HCV and attempts to help understand and combat the damaging and deadly diseases. Because cannabis use has been found to be fairly common amongst patients with these diseases, the group decided to further the investigation and conduct the first longitudinal study on the effects of it.
Cannabis use for HIV and/or HCV patients can help with increasing appetites, while at the same time being associated with lower risk for obesity and the formation of insulin resistance. Because insulin resistance can be associated with unhealthy lifestyle factors such as uncontrolled weight gain, intravenous drug use or untreated HIV, patients with HCV have found the substance to be quite helpful in assisting the control of their diet and lifestyle choices.
The study itself was conducted over a period of 60 months and focused on about 703 people of both genders who were co-infected with HIV and HCV. During the study, the subjects were given a baseline evaluation at the beginning of the study, and then again every 12 months in order to track the patients’ progress and how the cannabis use was affecting their insulin resistance.
At each of the subjects’ visits with the study, they were asked to complete a questionnaire that asked them about the frequency of their use of cannabis over the last four weeks. In addition, the researchers and investigators collected other points of data concerning any other lifestyle habits (including age, gender, HIV viral load, use of other related interferon-based anti-HCV drugs, and coffee consumption) that would cause some form of insulin resistance to form.
At the end of the 60-month study period, investigators concluded, after taking into account all other factors, that cannabis use in any quantity or frequency has the potential to lower an HIV/HCV co-infected patient’s insulin resistance by almost threefold.
Although the test is helpful and shows that there is a great amount of potential in using cannabis to help those suffering from these diseases, the researchers and investigators admit that the work they are doing isn’t anywhere near to being completed and adopted into the medical world.
“There are several cannabis based pharmacotherapies which do not rely on herbal marijuana and are used for specific indications (e.g. symptoms relief of multiple sclerosis),” the authors of the French study concluded. “The benefits of these products for patients concerned by increased risk of insulin resistance and diabetes need to be evaluated in clinical research and practice.”
While this may be just a stepping stone in the battle to fight and hopefully end the suffering caused by HIV, HCV and insulin resistance diseases, the work that these researchers have compiled has gained great strides. As medical researchers and investigators continue to find more ways to end deadly and painful diseases throughout the world, the cannabis industry has become the next big place for them to begin to look into new and healthier options.
Hopefully, as time passes and more research is done, cures or further treatments can be found for these diseases; and if cannabis gets to play a helpful role in the completion of this task, then all the better for the ever-growing medical cannabis market.
Ben Miller is a writer and musician living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s in English and Philosophy from Wofford College. He has written 18 different drafts for this bio, but this is the only one you will ever see.