In animal studies, two compounds found in marijuana—tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabidiol (CBD)—have shown promise for treating type 2 diabetes. Rats given THCV ate less, lost weight and body fat, burned more calories, and had lower fasting insulin levels, which means they were less likely to develop diabetes. CBD improved cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity. Taken together, THCV and CBD also had similar positive effects. An added bonus: Neither compound produced the types of mood-altering side effects associated with smoking marijuana. In other words, they don’t get you high. Would people with type 2 diabetes benefit in the same way from THCV and/or CBD? For the first time, researchers conducted a study to answer that question.
Researchers in England studied 62 obese men and women with type 2 diabetes, whose average age was 59. Each participant was randomly assigned to receive twice-daily doses of one of five different treatments, all pills: THCV, CBD, a combination of THCV and CBD in equal amounts, a combination with 20 parts CBD to one part THCV, and placebo. The study lasted for 13 weeks. The researchers monitored and measured changes in the participants’ cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, body weight, belly fat, appetite, heart health, and other health markers.
Of the compounds and combinations studied, only THCV demonstrated significant positive results. It boosted the function of insulin-producing B cells by more than 40 percent, reduced fasting glucose levels by nearly 10 percent, and improved responses to the oral glucose tolerance test (a measure of how the body handles glucose). The researchers noted a few mild side effects from THCV, including decreased appetite and diarrhea.
The researchers were not able to replicate most of the benefits in people that the two marijuana-derived compounds, THCV and CBD, demonstrated in lab animals. More research will be needed to determine how well THCV controls glucose levels in people.
“Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Group Pilot Study.” Khalid A. Jadoon, Stuart H. Ratcliffe, David A. Barrett, E. Louise Thomas, Colin Stott, Jimmy D. Bell, Saoirse E. O’Sullivan, and Garry D. Tan Diabetes Care 2016 Oct; 39(10): 1777-1786.