Scientists in China published a study in June 2023 showing no association between consuming cannabis and a higher risk of steatosis, also known as fatty liver disease.
Aware of the increase in cannabis use in the United States, the team from Wuhan, Hubei wished to address the confusion held by the public surrounding how cannabis affects the liver.
Researchers examined a cohort of 2622 adult participants using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a detailed health survey conducted by the government. The cohort sample was representative of the general US population.
The participants had all been subject to a non-invasive liver examination known as vibration-controlled transient elastography, and were split into three groups; current cannabis users, former cannabis users, and lifetime non-cannabis users. A total of 1085 (41.38%) of the participants had some level of fatty liver disease.
The findings suggest those who are currently using cannabis (have used it in the past 30 days) had fewer instances of fatty liver disease than those who had never used cannabis.
However, after the results had been adjusted to take into consideration alcohol consumption, past cannabis use was not found to have a significant effect on instances of fatty liver disease.
The authors wrote, “In this study, we sought to characterize the general adult population with reported marijuana use undergoing vibration-controlled transient elastography (VCTE) and evaluate the association between reported marijuana use and liver steatosis and fibrosis by VCTE.
“Participants with steatosis were more likely to be male, older, Mexican American, and had a higher BMI. Participants who were married or living with a partner, and had hypertension, diabetes, or CVD had a higher prevalence of steatosis. The prevalence of steatosis was 50.3% in participants who never used marijuana, 35% in participants who were past users, and 14.7% in current users.
“Current marijuana use within the past 30 days was associated with decreased steatosis, while past marijuana use had no significant association between marijuana use status and liver steatosis, after accounting for potential confounding variables. According to the current findings, no association was established between marijuana use and liver fibrosis.”
Although data produced by the current study adds to already available research supporting the claim cannabis use does not increase the risk of fatty liver disease, authors acknowledge further studies are necessary, “In conclusion, we found that current marijuana use is inversely associated with liver steatosis. Further studies are required to confirm these results longitudinally, and investigations into marijuana compounds and their biological effects are promising for treating and preventing fatty liver disease.”