This study tested longitudinal associations between cannabis use and cardiometabolic risk factors that underlie the development of cardiovascular diseases.
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.
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.
Cannabis use is associated with lower BMI, and lower BMI is related to lower levels of risk on other cardiometabolic risk factors.