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WIRE: NORML critiques study linking cannabis use to metabolic syndrome

Atlanta, GA — The findings of a recent, well-publicized study correlating long-term cannabis use with a slightly increased risk of metabolic syndrome are inconsistent with those of several prior observational studies. Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a constellation of risk factors linked with an increased likelihood of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

Investigators at the Georgia State University School of Public Health assessed the association between subjects’ duration of cannabis use and MetS in a cohort of 3,051 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during the years 2011 and 2012.

Researchers reported that subjects’ cannabis use history was correlated with a “small, yet consistent increase in odds” for hypertension, obesity and other MetS risk factors. For many factors, the data showed “an initial decrease in values but [then an] eventual increase.” Authors of the study were unable to control for subjects’ diet, an important risk factor for MetS.

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

Researchers acknowledged that their findings are largely inconsistent with those of prior studies. 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 are less likely to be obese, possess lower BMI, and are less likely to suffer from adult onset diabetes as compared to non-users. A 2017 longitudinal study reported that those who consume cannabis long-term suffer no greater likelihood of cardiovascular disease by middle age than do those with no history of use.

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

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Relationship between years of marijuana use and the four main diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome among United States adults,” appears in the Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy.

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