Fatty liver disease, most often caused by alcohol is a growing health concern due to poor diet and limited exercise. Affecting one in three U.S. citizens, livers that contain more than 5-10 percent fat can damage the organ, leading to fibrosis, liver cancer and liver cirrhosis which can become fatal. While alcohol may be the number one contributor to fatty liver disease, obesity, diabetes, frequent prescription use and a high-fat diet can also put an individual at risk. But you know what doesn’t contribute to the condition according to recent studies; cannabis. In fact, much like obesity itself, the rate of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is reportedly lower among pot smokers.
Cannabis users have lower rates of Fatty Liver Disease
The first study conducted to examine the role of pot in fatty liver disease took place at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Researchers searched through the data of nearly six-million patients from 3,000 hospitals to determine the linkage between cannabis use and NAFLD.
Files from patients with NAFLD were isolated and split into non-cannabis users, non-dependent cannabis users and dependent cannabis users. According to the researchers,
The study revealed that cannabis users showed significantly lower (43 percent) NAFLD prevalence compared to non-users.
In fact, the study showed that the more that cannabis was used, the lower the risk of developing NAFLD when compared to non-consumers. Terence Ndonyi Bukong, the study’s lead researcher also added,
We observed a strong dose-dependent reduction in the prevalence of NAFLD with cannabis use suggesting that cannabis use might suppress or reverse NAFLD development.
An additional study published by the National Institute of Health in 2010 examined the role of cannabis in fatty liver disease.
Emerging evidence suggests that cannabinoids play an important role in the modulation of fatty liver, which appears to be mediated via activation of cannabinoid receptors.
The research is only correlative at this point
More research will be needed to determine the degree to which the endocannabinoid system and the CB1 and CB2 receptors impact fatty liver disease. Studies conducted by surveying data (such as the University of Mass. one above) are limited to certain correlative speculations.
For example, the researchers admitted that only a portion of cannabis users will divulge their cannabis use to healthcare professionals. Also, there’s no way of knowing how much cannabis was used among patients, nor the frequency of use, method of ingestion, etc.
Nevertheless, researchers would like to further their studies on cannabis’ correlation with reduced risk of fatty liver disease. Previous studies have found CBD in particular to have therapeutic benefits for liver disorders. A
s for now, the elimination of alcohol, dietary changes, and weight loss are the go-to treatments for anyone diagnosed with NAFLD, and as research continues to unfold, cannabis may become another effective treatment in the near future.