MINNESOTA, United States, Wednesday September 16, 2015 – Marijuana users may be more likely to develop prediabetes – a condition in which blood sugar levels are abnormally high – than those who have never smoked it, a new US study has found.
Data collected from a group of more than 3,000 people in the United States showed that adults who currently used marijuana were 65 per cent more likely to have poor sugar control which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Those who no longer smoked the drug, but had used it 100 times or more in their lifetime, had a 49 per cent greater chance of developing the condition.
The group of more than 3,000 Americans are now in their 30th year of a study called the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults. They were 18-30 when they were recruited in 1985 and 1986.
The percentage who self-reported current use of marijuana declined from over 28 per cent in 1985-1986 to 12 per cent in 2010-2011.
Authors of the study, led by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Mike Bancks, said: “Marijuana use, by status or lifetime frequency, was not associated with incidence or presence of diabetes after adjustment for potential confounding factors.
“However, marijuana use was associated with the development and prevalence of prediabetes after adjustment. Specifically, occurrence of prediabetes in middle adulthood was significantly elevated for individuals who reported using marijuana in excess of 100 times by young adulthood.
Previous studies looking at marijuana use had found that users had lower rates of diabetes compared with nonusers, said Bancks.
In those studies, however, both marijuana use and diabetes were assessed at the time, meaning it was unclear whether people were using the drug before they developed diabetes, or afterward, he said.
Additionally: “It’s unclear how marijuana use could place an individual at increased risk for prediabetes, yet not diabetes,” the scientists wrote.
The researchers offered several reasons to explain this observation. For one, it’s possible that people who were more likely to develop diabetes were left out of the study, because in order to be included, people had to be free of diabetes at the start of the follow-up period.
It is also possible that marijuana may have a larger impact on blood sugar levels in the prediabetes range than the diabetes range, the scientists suggested.
Bancks said more research is needed to study the possible link, adding that researchers should look at different groups of people, how marijuana is consumed and the amount consumed.
He encouraged doctors to discuss the potential risks of using the drug with their patients, adding that doctors should monitor the blood sugar levels of patients with “an extensive history of marijuana use.”
The study was published at the weekend in the journal Diabetologia: “Marijuana vs. Alcohol: Which Is Worse for Your Health?”