Marijuana users are stereotypically portrayed as lazy, leading a generally sedentary lifestyle. They are also prone to get the “munchies,” which science proved to actually be a thing a few months ago. Those two factors are leading causes of metabolic syndrome, so one would think that marijuana users would be at greater risk of metabolic syndrome. A new study shows that’s not the case, however.
According to research published in The American Journal of Medicine, people who currently smoke marijuana are about 50 percent less likely to have metabolic syndrome compared to those who have never smoked marijuana. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat, which are linked to increased risk of heart disease and/or type 2 diabetes, as well as other health problems.
Researchers from the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine looked for the association between marijuana use and metabolic syndrome using data from a 2005 to 2010 study by National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. The study, in which nearly 8,500 20- to 59-year-olds participated, classified people as having metabolic syndrome if they had more than three of these symptoms: elevated fasting glucose levels, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, elevated systolic or diastolic blood pressure, and increased waist circumference.
The researchers then separated the participants into three categories: those who never smoked weed, those who currently smoked weed, and those who used to smoke weed but don’t anymore. They found that 19.5 percent of participants who had never smoked weed before met the criteria of having metabolic syndrome. Of those who were former smokers, 17.5 percent had enough of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. It was those who currently smoked weed who came in the lowest percentage of metabolic syndrome, at 13.8 percent.
Marijuana users also showed mean fasting glucose levels — the way we determine how much sugar is in the blood — significantly lower than the levels when compared to people who never smoked, while waist circumference was significantly lower among men who currently smoked when compared to those that never did.
“Among emerging adults, current marijuana users were 54 percent less likely than never users to present with metabolic syndrome,” the researchers said. “These findings have important implications for the nation as marijuana use becomes more accepted and we simultaneously face multiple epidemics of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.”
Source: Vidot DC, Prad G, Hlaing WM, Arheart KL, Messiah SE. Metabolic Syndrome among Marijuana Users in the United States: An Analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data. American Journal of Medicine. 2015.