University of Miami Study Finds Young Hispanic Marijuana Users Have Lower Odds of Metabolic Syndrome

Hispanic/Latino marijuana users between the ages of 20 and 30 have significantly lower odds of metabolic syndrome than Hispanic/Latino non-users, according to a recent study by researchers with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences and Department of Psychology. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors, including high blood pressure, blood sugar, abdominal fat, and unhealthy triglycerides and HDL cholesterol levels linked to increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

“These findings have health implications as marijuana use becomes more accepted and we simultaneously face multiple epidemics of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes,” said lead study author Denise C. Vidot, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow working with UM’s Department of Public Health Sciences and Behavioral Medicine Research Center. “As marijuana use becomes legal in more states, it is important to understand both the health risks and benefits of this substance.”

The study, titled “Current Marijuana Use and Metabolic Syndrome among Emerging Adults by Race/Ethnicity,” examined data from 4,073 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey participants from 2005 to 2012. The research showed that only 2.5 percent of Hispanics/Latinos who currently use marijuana met the criteria for metabolic syndrome, compared to 10.6 percent of Hispanic/Latino non-users. No significant relationships were found between metabolic syndrome and marijuana use among non-Hispanic whites or non-Hispanic blacks.

Findings support previous work indicating that the endocannabinoid system may hold therapeutic promise benefiting those with obesity/metabolic syndrome; however, future studies should examine the cannabinoid composition and strains of marijuana used, the dose-response relationship, and other potential mechanisms underlying this association.

Vidot’s study is part of her extensive research on health outcomes of marijuana use across various age groups and ethnic and racial minorities.

The recent study was co-authored by UM public health experts WayWay Hlaing, Ph.D., epidemiologist and associate professor of professional practice, Maria Llabre, Ph.D., professor and Director of Biobehavioral Statistics at the Behavioral Medicine Research Center, Marc Gellman, Ph.D., research associate professor, Associate Director of the Division of Health Psychology and Associate Director for Administration at the Behavioral Medicine Research Center, Guillermo “Willy” Prado, Ph.D., Miller Professor and Director of the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health, and Dean of the Graduate School, Sarah Messiah, Ph.D., M.P.H., research associate professor of pediatrics and public health sciences, and pre-doctoral fellow Samantha Reina.

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