A recent study has found that smoking marijuana may be linked to a lower risk of liver disease caused by too much fat in the liver, also known as steatosis or fatty liver disease. The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative sample of Americans, and found an inverse association between current marijuana use and liver steatosis. However, they cautioned that the pathophysiology is unclear and further study is needed to confirm the results longitudinally.
The study was conducted by a group of Chinese researchers who used vibration controlled transient elastography (VCTE) results to evaluate liver steatosis and fibrosis in a pool of 2,622 participants. They found that compared to never marijuana users, past and current users had a lower prevalence of liver steatosis. In the alcohol intake-adjusted model, current marijuana use was an independent predictor of a low prevalence of liver steatosis in people with non-heavy alcohol intake. However, no significant association was established between marijuana use and liver fibrosis, irrespective of past or current use.
Despite the intriguing findings, the researchers urged caution due to several limitations in their study. Firstly, it was an observational study, which means no causal inference can be made and correlations should be interpreted as associations. Secondly, marijuana use was based on self-reporting which may be subject to misclassification and physical activity and diet were not included in the analyses. Lastly, due to the limitation of the NHANES database, they could not rule out biliary cirrhosis and primary liver diseases such as Wilson’s disease and the use of steatogenic medication.
In conclusion, this study suggests that further investigations into marijuana compounds and their biological effects are promising for treating and preventing fatty liver disease. However, more research is needed to confirm these results longitudinally. Doctors currently do not have medication specifically for fatty liver disease but instead focus on helping patients manage factors that contribute to the condition and recommend making lifestyle changes that can significantly improve their health.