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Munch on this: U of M research links marijuana and prediabetes

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Marijuana users are more likely to develop prediabetes than those who have never used the drug, according to a new study by a University of Minnesota researcher.

The results published in the journal Diabetologia found users of marijuana had higher odds of developing prediabetes, but found no link to full-blown Type 2 diabetes. (Prediabetes involves a blood sugar level that is elevated but is not high enough to be considered Type 2, the Mayo Clinic says.)

The study led by Michael Bancks of the U of M's School of Public Health found current marijuana users had a 65 percent greater risk of developing prediabetes, while past users – those who had used the drug 100 times in their lives – showed a 49 percent greater risk, Medical News Today reports.

As Medscape notes, the study looked at more than 3,000 participants in four U.S. urban areas when they were about 32 years old and again when they were 50.

Are the munchies really the cause?

The National Health Service of the United Kingdom looked over Bancks' study and issued a statement on it, pointing out the difficulty in establishing a cause and effect relationship between marijuana and prediabetes when many other factors – notably diet – are connected to each.

In particular, the National Health Service makes note of one of marijuana's best-known side effects and suggests that may be the real link to blood sugar.

"Cannabis is a notorious appetite stimulant – know(n) as "the munchies", which often leads users to eat energy-rich, nutritiously poor snacks, such as crisps and sweets. If there is a link, it's possible that diet could be having an effect on diabetes risk, rather than cannabis itself."

Or, as Wired put it earlier this year, marijuana is a gateway drug "... to things like chocolate-dipped pretzels and salted-caramel ice cream."

In Great Britain, Vice reports that a pro-cannabis group has attacked Bancks' study as "awful research."

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