study published by the Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy on Feb. 19 that correlates cannabis use with slightly elevated risk of metabolic syndrome (MetS) is inconsistent with previous research into the relationship between marijuana and related risk factors, such as elevated blood sugar levels and obesity. MetS risk factors are linked to cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers at the Georgia State University School of Public Health assessed the association between cannabis use duration and MetS in a cohort of 3,051 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2011-2012. They reported that subjects’ cannabis use history was correlated with a “small, yet consistent increase in odds” for hypertension, obesity and other risk factors. Researchers noted that, for many factors, the data showed “an initial decrease in values but [then an] eventual increase.” The authors were unable to control for subjects’ diet, an important risk factor for MetS.

“Extended duration of marijuana use could possibly increase the risk for the development of metabolic syndrome,” they concluded. “Longitudinal research is required to define the true relationship between marijuana use and metabolic syndrome.”

Researchers acknowledged that their findings are largely inconsistent with the available literature. Specifically, a 2016 study involving a significantly larger cohort of NHANES participants reported that “current marijuana use is associated with lower odds of metabolic syndrome.”

Several other observational trials have similarly reported that those with a cannabis use history possess lower BMI, and are less likely to be obese or suffer from adult onset diabetes as compared to non-users. A 2017 longitudinal study reported that long-term cannabis consumers suffer no greater likelihood of cardiovascular disease by middle age than those with no history of use.

Recent clinical trials data also find that the administration of specific cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC-V, are positively associated with reductions in blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Read the full text of the study, “Relationship between years of marijuana use and the four main diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome among United States adults,” here.

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About Paul Armentano

Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and a Senior Policy Advisor at Freedom Leaf. He also serves on the faculty of Oaksterdam University. Mr. Armentano’s writing and research on marijuana policy have appeared in well over 750 publications, scholarly and/or peer-reviewed journals, as well as in more than two dozen textbooks and anthologies. He is the co-author of the book Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (2009, Chelsea Green), which has been licensed and translated internationally, and more recently, The Citizens’ Guide to State-by-State Marijuana Laws (Whitman Books, 2015). Mr. Armentano is the 2013 Freedom Law School Health Freedom Champion of the Year and the 2013 Alfred R. Lindesmith award recipient in the achievement in the field of scholarship.

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