US/Canada, 25 February 2011 – Marijuana benefits are always disputed by the authorities that have an interest in keeping it illegal, including governments. Finally, a small, objective Canadian study on marijuana was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Alberta Cancer Board, Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The results supported some lesser known benefits of marijuana.
The study involved only 21 people, all with advanced cancer who were being treated with chemotherapy or had been in the past. The goal was to see if THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, helped increase appetite, the taste and smell of food.
Why the interest in dietary issues for cancer patients? It is common for cancer patients to have a depressed appetite and their sense of smell and taste is altered. This often leads to weight loss, anorexia, a poorer quality of life, and decreased survival.
For the study, the 21 patients were divided in one group of 11 that were administered THC pills and a group of 10 that were administered a sugar pill placebo.
They were given their pills twice daily for 18 days and recorded what they ate for 3 days. A daily survey was completed and they were also interviewed.
The large majority (73%) of the group administered THC declared they enjoyed their food more while only 30% said the same in the placebo group. 64% said their appetite increased for those in the THC group (of which one gave incomplete data).
As for the group given sugar pills, 50% actually said they had a decreased appetite while another 20% showed no change.
“Our findings are important as there is no accepted treatment for chemosensory alterations experienced by cancer patients”, concluded the authors.
Putting aside the issue of recreational use of marijuana, governments need to open up to the objective study of marijuana for medicinal benefits like any other plant. Although this is a small study on marijuana benefits, it is a positive move forward.