Regular cannabis use may help protect hepatitis patients from developing extremely high blood pressure, diabetes, or other metabolic disorders, according to a new large-scale observational study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
Researchers from several institutions in France conducted this new study to explore the relationship between lifetime cannabis use and common hepatitis symptoms. Chronic HCV infection can lead to many serious liver disease manifestations, including cirrhosis, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. HCV infections can also increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, increasing the risk of obesity, hypertension, and increased high-density cholesterol.
Using data from a massive French database of hepatitis patients, the researchers tracked 6,364 individuals who were infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). This comprehensive database allowed the study authors to compare the incidence of metabolic disorders between patients who used cannabis and those who did not. The study focused on people with current, untreated, chronic HCV infection and excluded those who had already been cured.
The researchers discovered that patients who reported using cannabis either currently or in the past reported a lower overall number of metabolic disorders than non-users. As a whole, cannabis use was directly associated with a lower risk of hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. This relationship led researchers to conclude that cannabis use reduces the risk of developing metabolic syndrome in HCV-positive people.
“In people chronically infected with HCV, cannabis use was associated with a lower risk of hypertension and a lower number of metabolic disorders,” the study authors concluded. “Post-HCV cure studies are needed to confirm these findings using longitudinal data and to test whether they translate into reduced mortality in this population... Future research should also explore the biological mechanisms underlying these potential benefits of cannabis use, and test whether they translate into reduced mortality in this population.”
Because the study is purely observational, researchers could not discover exactly why hepatitis patients who used cannabis were less likely to experience metabolic disorders. Several previous studies have found that cannabis users are less likely to be obese than non-users. Still, the present study determined that the obesity-fighting effects of cannabis alone do not fully account for the reduced risk of metabolic illness.
Instead, the study authors suggest that the anti-inflammatory powers of cannabis may help block the onset of metabolic symptoms. “As cannabis and cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory properties, and given that chronic inflammation is closely related to the onset of metabolic disorders, we hypothesize that cannabis use lowers the risk of metabolic disorders partly through a decrease in chronic inflammation,” the researchers wrote.
An earlier study by the same crew of researchers also found that HCV patients who used cannabis were less likely to be obese and had a lower risk of developing diabetes. Other studies suggest that these findings may also have relevance to people who don't have hepatitis. One recent study found that women who get high on the regular are less likely to become diabetic, and earlier research reports that THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) and CBM (cannabimovone), two non-psychoactive cannabinoids, could also help regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.