Scientist Investigate The Use Of Cannabinoids To Treat Diabetes.
A Scientist Is Investigating The Use Of Cannabinoids To Treat Diabetes And Obesity.
Justin Matheson, a researcher at the University of Toronto, is exploring if cannabinoids, which are naturally occurring components in the plant, might truly be used to treat obesity and diabetes. Cannabis is frequently connected with “the munchies” in popular culture.
“On the surface, the research sounds a little counterintuitive,” says Matheson, who graduated with a PhD in pharmacology and toxicology from the Temerty School of Medicine in 2020 and is currently finishing a post-doctoral research programme at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
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Yet, according to research conducted by my boss (Professor Bernard Le Foll, chair of addiction psychiatry at the Temerty School of Medicine) and others, frequent cannabis users actually had lower BMIs, lower obesity and diabetes risks than non-users.
One of the first group of Toronto Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Consortium (TC3) fellows is Matheson.
He recently discussed his work and the rapidly expanding field of cannabis- and cannabinoid-related health studies with author Gabrielle Giroday.
What drew you to this field of study?
The majority of my work focuses on drug usage and addictions. I studied the effects of sex, gender, and cannabis use for my dissertation. For instance, I released a study in 2019 that examined the effects of cannabis smoking on young people of different sexes.
Prior to beginning this project, I had already developed a strong interest in studying cannabis addiction and exploring the potential therapeutic applications of cannabinoids.
With the current studies, there are intriguing connections between addiction or substance use problems, obesity, and binge eating. Both include negative behavioural tendencies that result in excessive dietary or drug use. It’s a novel field that merits more investigation.
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Can you describe your strategy?
An RCT will be conducted as part of this study to determine whether the synthetic cannabis medicine nabilone can help adults with obesity lose weight.
A sample of 60 obese individuals will be randomly assigned to receive either a high dose of the medication nabilone, a low dose, or a placebo. Participants will range in age from 25 to 45.
Oral capsules containing nabilone are administered. The active ingredient in cannabis, THC, is quite similar to it, yet it differs somewhat structurally. Throughout the course of 12 weeks, study participants will take nabilone every day.
We’ll keep an eye on the patients’ body weight and take other measurements during that time to check for any nabilone side effects.
In the study, we’re not only examining if the cannabis medication can help obese folks lose weight; we’re also attempting to determine why. We’ll do this by evaluating cannabinoids in the blood and other hormones, alterations in the gut flora, and neuroimaging.
Also, we are recording the individuals’ brain activity at baseline, before to starting therapy, and at the conclusion of the 12-week period. We are particularly curious to discover how treatment-related alterations in the brain response to food imagery.
The trial will hopefully be completed in two years from the time we begin recruiting volunteers.
What do you intend for this work to accomplish?
THC and nabilone are comparable. Moreover, cannabis is known to be pro-appetite since it makes people more hungry. Cannabis has historically been connected to “the munchies” and utilised by those with wasting syndromes or appetite disorders. So, the research initially appears to be somewhat paradoxical.
However my boss Le Foll and other researchers have discovered that frequent cannabis users actually have lower BMIs, a reduced risk of obesity, and a lower risk of diabetes than non-users.
This study will be a first-in-human trial to determine whether giving nabilone to obese individuals will result in a reduced body weight, which would support epidemiological data and duplicate animal findings. What we’ll discover is still a mystery.
How will the effects of nabilone be assessed for each participant?
The endocannabinoid system, which is the body’s natural system that underlying cannabis’ effects, is a system that plays a significant role in a variety of brain functions, including how we perceive pleasure and reward. Thus, we believe it’s feasible that nabilone lessens individuals’ reactions to food imagery, which is why we’re scanning participants’ brains as part of our research.
We want to examine the gut microbiota because there is an intriguing association between cannabinoids and gut bacteria, and we want to discover if that relationship changes with treatment.
Endocannabinoids, the body’s own cannabinoid chemicals, have been discovered to be more prevalent in obese individuals. We think that long-term use of nabilone or other cannabinoid medication may interfere with endocannabinoid levels, which may be one mechanism by which nabilone causes weight loss.
What would you say is the current state of cannabis or cannabinoid research?
I believe that, particularly after legalisation, research on cannabis and cannabinoids has evolved. It’s undeniably a rapidly expanding sector, and I consider myself fortunate to have entered it three years before legalisation took place in 2015, when I did.
I continue to believe that marijuana use is still widely stigmatised. The participants I work with, who frequently use cannabis or have a cannabis use disorder, are impacted by this. Hopefully, this will change once marijuana is legalised.
Researching cannabis now, in my opinion, is really intriguing, especially in light of the many myths around it. It appears to be a pretty divisive subject. Cannabis proponents tout it as a “cures-all substance,” while opponents of legalisation claim that it is harmful to people and should be prohibited.
It appears to be in the middle to me. The topic is so intriguing and is where I want to spend the remainder of my career because there are so many misconceptions in both the scholarly community and the general public.
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