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Marijuana compounds may help control blood sugar and lower the risk of diabetes, a new study suggests. The compounds also might help users control their weight, according to

Previous studies have concluded marijuana users are less likely to be obese, and have a reduced risk of diabetes, even though they tend to consume more calories, the article notes.

“The most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers,” said lead researcher Murray Mittleman of Harvard Medical School. “Their fasting insulin levels were lower, and they appeared to be less resistant to the insulin produced by their body to maintain a normal blood-sugar level.”

The study, which appears in the American Journal of Medicine, included more than 4,600 adults. Almost half had smoked marijuana at least once, and 12 percent were current marijuana users. The researchers took into account other factors that could affect diabetes risk, such as alcohol use, physical activity and age.

They found fasting insulin levels of current marijuana users were 16 percent lower than those of people who formerly used the drug or had never used it. Current users also had a 17 percent reduced risk of another measure of insulin resistance. High levels of both are linked with Type II diabetes, which is associated with obesity.

The study found people who currently used marijuana had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein, known as “good cholesterol,” which can protect against heart disease. The waistlines of current marijuana smokers were 1.5 inches smaller on average than former users and people who had never used the drug.

The researchers acknowledged they do not know why marijuana may have these effects, and pointed out it is not known whether it is the marijuana itself, or another factor in marijuana users’ lifestyle, that could result in these health benefits.

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