Scientists may have just shown that frequent cannabis use is a predictor much lower risk of developing the most common liver malady in the world: Fatty Liver Disease.
While much discussion is had about American obesity and its detrimental health consequences, a fatty liver can be particularly problematic. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, NAFLD, affects nearly 1 in 3 Americans. It can lead to even more dire health concerns, such as steatohepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels), high levels of fat (especially triglycerides) in the blood, obesity and diabetes mellitus are risk factors for developing NAFLD. Interestingly enough, cannabis users have already been shown to have lower risks for the latter two conditions.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have published the first study of its kind examining the relationship between cannabis use and NAFLD and the results are dramatic.
A study of the medical records of a huge sample size (5.8 million patients from 3,000 hospitals in more than 40 states) sought to determine if cannabis use affected the propensity to develop the disease. It turns out that there may be a correlation, and it gets significantly stronger for heavy users.
Researchers determined that the study findings, “revealed that cannabis users showed significantly lower NAFLD prevalence compared to non-users.”
How significant was the reduction? The more frequently patients used cannabis the less likely they were to have NAFLD. People who reported occasional cannabis use were 15 percent less likely to develop NAFLD. Regular users were 52 percent less likely than non-users of the herb.
The study noted some obvious shortcomings. The percentage of people self-reporting their cannabis use to healthcare professionals is likely to be lower than the prevalence of use other studies suggest. In this sample a mere 2 percent of patients reported to be non-cannabis users. That number is far lower than the 12 percent of Americans who are users as reported by a recent Gallup Poll. There was also no specific information about what strain, strength of concentration or mode of delivery of cannabis was available from this data.
Despite the limitations, the researchers call for more molecular level studies of this relationship. With initial findings like these, grant money will likely be easier to come by for that purpose. That could be very good news for the millions of people worldwide trying to put the skinny back in their liver for a healthier life.