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.
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.