Cannabis plants could help treat type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related disease after scientists found that two compounds in the plants’ leaves can increase the amount of energy the body burns.
In mice studies, the THCV and cannabidiol compounds were shown to boost the animals’ metabolism, leading to drops in the amount of cholesterol in the blood and fat in key organs, such as the liver .
THCV was also found to increase the animals’ sensitivity to insulin while also protecting the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, allowing them to work more efficiently and for longer.
Researchers at GW Pharmaceuticals are now conducting clinical trials in human patients in an effort to produce a drug that can be used to treat people suffering from metabolic syndrome – a condition that occurs when a range of metabolic risk factors such as obesity, insulin resistance and high blood pressure come together to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as type 2 diabetes.
Director of research and development at GW Pharmaceuticals, Dr Steph Wright, said: “We are conducting four Phase 2a clinical trials and we expect some results later this year. We are interested in how the drugs effect the fat distribution and utilization in the body as a treatment for metabolic diseases.”
He explained that although cannabis is an illegal drug in the UK, GW Pharmaceuticals has a license to grow cannabis plants, bred to express different quantities of compounds known as cannabinoids, in specially-designed greenhouses at a secret facility in the south of England.
The company has already produced a so-called cannabinoid medication for the treatment of MS symptoms, cancer pain and neuropathic pain.