People who regularly smoke marijuana may have better control of their blood sugar and may be skinnier than non-marijuana users, according to a new study.
The research, published in the American Journal of Medicine, shows that people who reported regularly using marijuana had a lower risk of insulin resistance and had lower fasting insulin levels, compared with people who never used marijuana. Researchers also found an association between using marijuana and having a smaller waist circumference and higher levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, compared with non-users. The research was conducted by scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the University of Nebraska and the Harvard School of Public Health.
"It is possible that the inverse association in fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance seen among current marijuana users could be in part due to changes in usage patterns among those with a diagnosis of diabetes," like if people with diabetes are advised to quit smoking, study researcher Dr. Elizabeth Penner, M.D., M.P.H., said in a statement. "However, after we excluded those subjects with a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, the associations between marijuana use" and insulin, cholesterol and waist circumference still remained true.
Though marijuana is illegal in much of the country (it's the most commonly used illegal drug here in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse), medical marijuana is currently legal in 19 states to help alleviate symptoms from treatments such as chemotherapy, researchers noted.
But it's important to note that research shows marijuana can detrimentally affect daily life by affecting mental health, raising likelihood of dropping out of school, and even hurting IQ levels when used during adolescence, according to NIDA. In addition, because marijuana is frequently smoked, the smoke can lead to breathing problems and respiratory disease.
The new study included data from 4,657 people who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Survey from 2005 to 2010. Among all the study participants, 1,975 had used marijuana before but weren't current users, and 579 were current marijuana users. There were 2,103 people who had never used it.
Researchers found that the associations between marijuana use and insulin and cholesterol levels were especially pronounced among the current users -- they had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels, compared with never-users -- but not as pronounced among those who had used marijuana before, but weren't current users.
And even though researchers acknowledged that people who use marijuana consume more calories than non-users, they still found links between smaller waist circumference and marijuana use. However, they said they were not sure why this association exists.
Recently, MyHealthNewsDaily reported on a study from Columbia University researchers showing that a pill form of marijuana -- which contains the drug's active ingredient -- may actually be better at relieving pain than the smoked form. Plus, the pill may be less prone to abuse since fewer people in the study said that they thought the effects were pleasurable, according to MyHealthNewsDaily.