Smoking bones away

This is the third article so far on marijuana. I have been given some interesting comments and even given links to other interesting information on this plant and its physiological and pharmacological effects.

In fact, I was given one such link by a medical person, who shall remain nameless, and it looks at the effect marijuana has on fat cells. We will look at that later in the article, but let’s start with the effect on bone density.

The endocannabinoid system (that was looked at in the last article) is now determined to have an important role in the regulation of bone mass and bone remodelling. Bone cells have been reported to express the type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1), the type 2 cannabinoid receptor (CB2), and the orphan G protein-coupled receptor 55 (GPR55), which has recently been found to be activated by some cannabinoid receptor ligands

A May 23, 2005 article in the UK Guardian reported on the study “Regulation Of Bone Mass, Bone Loss And Osteoclast Activity By Cannabinoid Receptors” published in the journal Nature Medicine by researchers Stuart H. Ralston, et. al.:

“Excessive use of cannabis can lead to brittle bones, new research suggests. Scientists have found that molecules on the surface of bone cells are targeted by cannabis chemicals. They discovered that drugs which block these cannabinoid receptors may prevent bone loss.

But the flip-side to the research is that smoking cannabis is likely to promote osteoporosis.

Professor Ralston, who led the research at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We hadn’t studied cannabis users, but the work we’ve done would suggest that if you use a lot of cannabis it could stimulate bone-absorbing cells, and that would be bad.”

Receptors are molecules that act like a “lock”, into which other molecules fit. Molecules that affect cells are activated when they bind to specific receptors.

Ralston, one of Britain’s leading osteoporosis experts, said he saw many patients with bone loss who used drugs of various types. But he pointed out that diet, smoking, and other lifestyle issues may also be involved.

“If using cannabis is one of the factors involved, we ought to know about it,” he added.

These same studies also showed that mice with inactivated cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors gained increased bone mass and were protected from ovariectomy-induced bone loss. This gives evidence of the negative effect heavy marijuana use will have on young persons and post menopausal women, in terms of their bone strength and for the younger person, their ability to grow and play certain sports.

In simple terms heavy marijuana users will find that broken bones will heal slower than normal.

Chronic cannabis smoking induces subtle metabolic changes that include increased visceral adiposity and adipose tissue insulin resistance, according to a new study in the March 25 edition of Diabetes Care.

Fran Lowry a freelance medical journalist wrote an article for Medscape (thanks Doc.) which suggested that there was a case to be answered for more investigations regarding marijuana and its metabolic effects on the body? Fran Lowry also quoted senior author Monica C. Skarulis, MD, who stated:

“We hypothesised that chronic cannabis smoking would result in hepatic-fat accumulation, leading to insulin resistance or evidence of a prediabetic state,” Skarulis said.

“Nevertheless, the take-home message from our findings is that mild metabolic derangement occurs in young people who smoke a lot of cannabis. They had a tendency to have proportionally more intra-abdominal fat than subcutaneous fat.”

In English, it was expected that there would be increased fatty build ups in the liver, which would lead to a form of diabetes normally reserved for older persons or obese persons.

Again my editor calls, so that is it for this week.

Our take home message has to be that regardless of the good intentions, the issue of legalising marijuana cannot be a simple yes or no vote, but an instigator for evidence-based study and not anecdotal information.

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