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Associations between cannabis use and cardiometabolic risk factors

A longitudinal study of men

Meier, Madeline H., PhD1; Pardini, Dustin, PhD2; Beardslee, Jordan, PhD3; Matthews, Karen A., PhD3

doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000665
Original Article: PDF Only

Objective This study tested longitudinal associations between cannabis use and cardiometabolic risk factors that underlie the development of cardiovascular diseases.

Methods Participants were men from the youngest cohort of the Pittsburgh Youth Study who were followed prospectively from approximately age 7 to 32 (n=253). Frequency of cannabis use was assessed yearly from ~ages 12-20 and again at ~ages 26, 29, and 32. The following cardiometabolic risk factors were assessed during a laboratory visit at age ~32: BMI, WHR, HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose, HOMA-IR, blood pressure, interleukin 6, and C-reactive protein.

Results Greater cannabis exposure was associated with relatively lower BMI (β=-0.31, p<.001), smaller WHR (β=-0.23, p=.002), better HDL (β=0.14, p=.036) and LDL cholesterol (β=-0.15, p=.026), lower triglycerides (β=-0.17, p=.009), lower fasting glucose (β=-0.15, p<.001) and HOMA-IR (β=-0.21, p=.003), lower systolic (β=-0.22, p<.001) and diastolic blood pressure (β=-0.15, p=.028), and fewer metabolic syndrome criteria (β=-0.27, p<.001). With exception of BMI, cannabis users’ mean levels on cardiometabolic risk factors were generally below clinical cutoffs for high risk. Most associations between cannabis use and cardiometabolic risk factors remained after adjusting for tobacco use, childhood SES, and childhood health. However, after adjusting for adult BMI, these associations were no longer apparent, and mediation tests suggested that cannabis users’ relatively lower BMI might explain their lower levels of risk on other cardiometabolic risk factors.

Conclusions Cannabis use is associated with lower BMI, and lower BMI is related to lower levels of risk on other cardiometabolic risk factors.

1Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States of America

2Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States of America

3Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America

Corresponding author: Madeline H. Meier, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, PO Box 871104, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104. Email: madeline.meier@asu.edu. Phone: 480-727-2718. Fax: 480-965-8544.

Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding: No conflicts. This research received support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health (R01HL111802). Data collection for the Pittsburgh Youth Study has been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA411018), National Institute of Mental Health (MH48890, MH50778), Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (96-MU-FX-0012). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Copyright © 2019 by American Psychosomatic Society
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