A new population-based case-control study published in PLOS ONE suggests cannabis use may prevent non-alcohol related fatty liver disease. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) was 15% in non-dependent cannabis users and 52% lower in dependent users. Lead researcher Terence Ndonyi Bukong says of the study, “We observed a strong dose-dependent reduction in the prevalence of NAFLD with cannabis use suggesting that cannabis use might suppress or reverse NAFLD development.” Using the 2014 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Nationwide Inpatient Survey (NIS), the researchers looked at 5,950,391 discharge records of patients who were 18 years or older and then isolated those patients with NAFLD. Then, they separated those with NAFLD into groups of non-cannabis users (98.04%), non-dependent cannabis users (1.75%), and dependent cannabis users (.22%). Among cannabis users, dependent users had 43% lower prevalence of NAFLD than non-dependent users.
This study supports previous findings, and has huge implications for those who suffer from fatty liver disease, which is the term used to describe too much fat accumulation that has been stored in the liver, and it is the most common form of chronic liver disease in the United States. This illness can lead to many other problems like steatohepatits, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and even hepatocellular carcinoma. While this study is positive, more research is desired as it did not investigate the molecular mechanisms responsible for these benefits. Researchers say, “Due to our inability to draw direct causation effects from our cross-sectional studies, we suggest prospective basic and human studies to decipher the mechanistic details of how the various active ingredients in cannabis modulate NAFLD development.”