Marijuana Is Safer Than… Sugar?
According to a new Wall Street Journal poll, Americans find marijuana less harmful than sugar. Given a choice of four popular substances, tobacco was listed by almost half the respondents (49%) as the most harmful, followed by alcohol in second place with 24%, and sugar in third with 15%. Marijuana was considered the least harmful, with just 8% of respondents ranking it the most harmful substance.
And speaking of sugar, three studies now have shown marijuana consumers have less risk for diabetes and lower body-mass-index and prevalence of obesity than non-tokers. “The most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers,” says the lead author of the one study, Murray Mittleman. “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.”
Of course, there are the health risks associated with becoming obese from the overconsumption of sugar – heart attack, stroke, diabetes, etc. But it turns out the sugar itself, even for fit people, has harmful effects. A 2013 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found a sugar molecule called G6P affected the muscle protein of the heart and could contribute to heart failure.
Your tendency toward a sweet tooth also may be more genetic than “munchies”. A couple of studies have now shown individuals with genetic changes in a hormone called ghrelin, which tells the brain “you’re hungry” consumed more sugar (and alcohol). A 2008 study showed excess sugar consumption increased resistance to the hormone leptin, which tells the brain “you’re full”.
Consider how often we hear worry from anti-pot people about our memory and cognitive abilities, scares that have been debunked by years of studies and, of course, the very existence of Carl Sagan. Do they ever mention two studies since 2009 that have shown memory deficiency and cognitive decline due to overconsumption of sugar?
In truth, sugar may be more accurately compared with alcohol’s dangers, minus the effect of belligerent drunkenness. A 2012 paper in the journal Nature suggested that sugar should come with warning labels like alcohol does. The authors found that sugar had similar hepatotoxic effects on the liver and led to many of the same chronic conditions as alcohol, and follow-up study in 2013 found that the liver damage could occur whether the sugar user was thin or fat.