A study started in 1985 is entering its 30th year and is beginning to reveal surprising data around marijuana use and a higher risk of developing prediabetes.
CARDIA, a long-term health study following 5,115 participants recruited by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), followed men and women aged 18-30 until this year, when the group entered middle age. This is the time marked by health professionals when prediabetes often begins to appear, according to Healthline.
The data gathered from the study led researchers to conclude that marijuana use from the past as well as present is directly associated with a higher risk of developing prediabetes, but not necessarily diabetes.
Researchers published the study in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
During the study, all of the participants gave a blood sample 12 hours after not eating in order to analyze their fasting blood sugar levels. They were also all required to fill out questionnaires about their levels, if any, of marijuana use.
The study also recognized many other factors that could affect the results including age, sex, race, tobacco and alcohol use, education level, lifestyle, diet, exercise patterns, other drug use, psychosocial well-being and medication use.
Over time, some of the participants dropped out of the study while some were also excluded for control reasons. But still, more than 2,500 people made it through to a final analysis stage.
During the study period, more than half of the participants developed prediabetes. Data showed that those who were current users of marijuana were 65 percent more likely to have prediabetes compared to those who had never used marijuana. As for those who had stopped using it when they got older, using the drug 100 times or more in their lives still linked them to a 23 percent risk increase.
Prediabetes is defined as a state of high blood sugar that isn’t severe enough to meet criteria for being considered full-blown diabetes.
“It is a major risk factor for future development of diabetes, but if recognized, it is also an intervention point and opportunity to prevent the progression to diabetes,” said Bancks, lead author of the study, in an interview with Healthline.