Change the world


Diabetes and obesity can be successfully treated with cannabis but only if the correct dosage for the individual patient is used. This is one of the crucial findings of a doctoral degree study at Nelson Mandela University. 

Sonaal Ramlugon, who has been conducting research on cannabis since 2011, will be graduating with her PhD degree in Biochemistry investigating the anti-obesity and anti-diabetic properties of cannabis.  
She was drawn to this field as until now, there have been no anti-diabetic and anti-obesity drugs which have no side-effects.  For example, an anti-diabetic drug might help to regulate the blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetic patients, but it can also cause them to gain weight, she says.  
Often the best approach is to adapt a healthy lifestyle involving a balanced diet and exercising, but this is not always possible for everyone. Therefore, there is a need to find a better treatment, especially one involving natural plant products, says Ramlugon.  
Unfortunately, cannabis often acts in a biphasic nature (in two phases), which means that the dosage is crucial for the correct effect, and this differs from individual to individual. For example, for a bad headache one would take two headache tablets instead of one but in the case of cannabis, a lower dosage might be more effective than a higher one.    
Another important finding was that the way that cannabis functions, depending on the type of diet that someone is used to, for example, a high carbohydrate diet or a high fat diet. Cannabis also acts differently in the cases of pre-diabetic or diabetic patients.  
“Interestingly, I discovered that the mechanism of action in cannabis is fat-depot dependent. This means that the way cannabis functions will depend on where the fats are stored, for example, ‘belly’ fat might be different to ‘leg’ fat.  I have to point out that fat is good, like most things in life, but only in moderation.  Believe it or not, fat plays an important role in regulating blood glucose levels”, Ramlugon says. 
It is also often when the balance between fat storage and distribution is disturbed that obesity and type 2 diabetes follows.  
These findings were mainly derived from experiments, which were conducted on rats who were fed to be obese and diabetic and then treated with cannabis. The next step would be to conduct clinical trials in humans to confirm the results obtained. “I would love to continue to be part of this study in the future”, says Ramlugon.  
“My father, who was a doctor once told me, “Biochemistry is the mother of medicine but unfortunately nowadays, most doctors have forgotten or are unaware of the power of Ayurvedic medicines (a natural system of medicines which originated in India) and cannabis is one of them”. 
In her honours and master’s studies, Ramlugon focused mainly on investigating the anti-diabetic and obesity properties of cannabis in fat cells. The fat cells were made insulin-resistant, and the cannabis treatment was effective in reversing their insulin-resistant state. There was also a reduced fat accumulation, and it was interesting to observe that the effect of cannabis was time dependent. 
And this is what led her to her PhD research, where animal models were used to investigate the therapeutic properties of cannabis.
“My dream job would be to work in the medical cannabis industry and hopefully change the pharmaceutical world for the better”, she says.  

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160