Marijuana Use Linked to Lower Metabolic Syndrome Risk

Article

Some studies have reported an association between marijuana use and individual metabolic syndrome factors, while others have found no relationship.

Despite record-high support for legalizing marijuana in the United States (58%), health care professionals do not have adequate clinical information about its potential uses.

The United States is currently facing epidemic levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. For the latter 2 conditions, metabolic syndrome is a significant risk factor. Some studies have reported an association between marijuana use and individual metabolic syndrome factors, while others have found no relationship.

A recent analysis of 8478 US patients aged 20 to 59 years evaluated the relationship between marijuana use and metabolic syndrome. Participant data was collected from in-home questionnaires, laboratory results, and physical examinations.

The primary outcome was metabolic syndrome, in addition to a cluster of 3 of the following risk factors: waist circumference, systolic/diastolic blood pressure, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting glucose.

Overall, 60% of participants reported using marijuana at some point in their lifetimes, while 20% reported using the substance within the past month. About 11% of adults reported current marijuana use.

Notable results regarding metabolic syndrome risk factors included the following:

  • Waist circumference was significantly lower among males who reported current marijuana use (93.8 cm, P< 0.0001) compared with never users (100.7 cm).
  • Current marijuana users had higher systolic blood pressure (119.4 mm Hg) than never users (117.7 mm Hg, P= 0.01).
  • Past (47.0 mg/dL, P= 0.01) and current (51.1 mg/dL, P< 0.0001) marijuana users had significantly higher mean HDL cholesterol than never users (45.4 mg/dL).
  • There was no difference in terms of triglycerides between marijuana users and never users.
  • Mean fasting glucose levels were significantly lower among current marijuana users (97.3 mg/dL) than never users (99.6 mg/dL, P= 0.02).

About 14% of current and 17.5% of past marijuana users presented with metabolic syndrome, compared with 19.5% of never users (P= 0.0003 and P= 0.03, respectively). The study authors concluded that current and past marijuana use were both associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome.

Reference

Vidot DC, et al. Metabolic syndrome among marijuana users in the United States: an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data. Am J Med. 2016 Feb;129(2):173-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2015.10.019.

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