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Cannabis Use Doesn't Cause Fatty Liver Disease According to Research

A research article was published late last month by a group of scientists from China who conducted a study investigating the potential association between cannabis consumption and the risk of steatosis, commonly known as fatty liver disease. This study aimed to address the public confusion surrounding the impact of cannabis on liver health, considering the growing use of cannabis in the United States.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a comprehensive health survey conducted by the US government. The study included a cohort of 2622 adult participants, selected to represent the general population of the United States. All participants had undergone a non-invasive liver examination called vibration-controlled transient elastography.

The cohort had three groups: current cannabis users, former cannabis users, and lifetime non-cannabis users. Among the participants, 41.38% (1085) exhibited some fatty liver disease level.

The findings indicated that individuals who were currently using cannabis (within the past 30 days) had a lower prevalence of fatty liver disease compared to those who had never used cannabis. 

When researchers calculated the study results to account for alcohol consumption, past cannabis use did not show a significant effect on the occurrence of fatty liver disease. 

The scientific community already knows that Alcohol use causes liver issues that can advance into further health problems, so this study is a landmark in showing that the Cannabis plant does not. 

The authors explained, "Our objective was to characterize the general adult population reporting marijuana use and evaluate the association between reported marijuana use and liver steatosis and fibrosis using vibration-controlled transient elastography (VCTE). 

Participants with steatosis were more likely to be male, older, Mexican American, and had a higher body mass index.

A higher incidence of steatosis among participants who were married or living with a partner and those with hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease was also a study conclusion. The majority of steatosis was 50.3% among participants who had never used marijuana, 35% among past users, and 14.7% among current users."

The researchers added, "Current marijuana use within the past 30 days was associated with a decreased prevalence of steatosis, while past marijuana use did not show a significant association between marijuana use status and liver steatosis after adjusting for potential confounding variables. Based on the current findings, "no association was established between marijuana use and liver fibrosis."

Although this study contributes to the existing body of research supporting that cannabis use does not increase the risk of fatty liver disease, the authors emphasized the need for further investigations. 

The researchers stated, "In conclusion, current marijuana use is inversely associated with liver steatosis. Additional longitudinal studies are required to confirm these findings, and research on marijuana compounds and their biological effects holds promise for the treatment and prevention of fatty liver disease."

Fatty liver disease, known as hepatic steatosis, is prevalent in the United States. It's a fat accumulation in the liver cells, which can lead to inflammation and liver damage if left untreated. The prevalence of fatty liver disease in the US can vary depending on the population studied and the diagnostic methods used.

The increasing rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the US have contributed to the rising prevalence of fatty liver disease. These conditions can lead to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the most common form of fatty liver disease. 

NAFLD is often associated with lifestyle factors such as poor diet, sedentary behavior, and excessive consumption of sugary drinks.

It's important to note that fatty liver disease can progress to a more severe condition called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). 

It involves liver inflammation, leading to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. NASH affects a smaller proportion of individuals with fatty liver disease but is considered more clinically significant due to its potential for complications.

Given the increasing prevalence of fatty liver disease and its potential long-term consequences, promoting awareness, early detection, and lifestyle interventions such as weight loss, exercise, and a healthy diet is crucial to prevent and manage this condition.

Regular medical check-ups and consultations with healthcare professionals can help individuals assess their liver health and take appropriate actions. A healthy lifestyle, including weight loss, exercise, and a balanced diet, remains the cornerstone of managing fatty liver disease, certain metabolic supplements have shown the potential to support liver health. 

It's important to note that supplements should not replace medical advice, and consulting with a healthcare professional is essential before starting any new supplement regimen.

Here are a few accessories to the diet studied concerning fatty liver disease:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: 

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel) and fish oil supplements, have shown promise in reducing liver fat and inflammation. They may also improve lipid profiles and insulin sensitivity. However, more research is needed to determine optimal dosages and their specific effects on fatty liver disease.

Vitamin E: 

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that has been studied for its potential benefits in fatty liver disease. Some studies suggest that vitamin E supplementation, particularly in individuals with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), may improve liver enzyme levels and reduce inflammation. However, further research is needed to determine the ideal dosage and long-term effects.

Milk Thistle: 

Milk thistle, a herbal supplement derived from Silybum marianum, contains an active compound called silymarin. Silymarin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may help protect liver cells from damage. Some studies have indicated potential benefits in reducing liver enzymes and improving liver function in certain liver diseases, including fatty liver disease. However, more research is needed to establish its effectiveness and optimal dosage for fatty liver disease.

N-acetylcysteine (NAC):

NAC is a precursor of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant produced in the body. Glutathione plays a vital role in liver detoxification and protection against oxidative stress. NAC supplementation has shown promising results in reducing liver enzyme levels and improving liver function in various liver diseases, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

It's important to reiterate that while these supplements may have potential benefits, each individual's response to supplements can vary, and potential risks or interactions with other medications should, especially with pharmaceutical medicines. Consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian is crucial to determine the appropriate supplementation strategy based on individual needs and medical history.


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