Cannabis Background

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

The most recent study of cannabis’ protection against fatty liver disease was reported in the journal Liver International on January 18, 2018, with the title “Cannabis use is associated with reduced prevalence of progressive stages of alcoholic liver disease”[ALD].

The study was a cooperative endeavor involving several medical schools in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Johns Hopkins in Maryland. The researchers used data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.

They found 319,514 ALD cases aged 18 or over, and broke this massive number into four progressed phases of ALD (alcohol liver disease) and three cannabis groups according to exposure frequency, which revealed 90.39 percent didn’t use cannabis; 8.26 percent were non-dependent cannabis users, and 1.36 percent were dependent cannabis users.

The research results showed that among heavy drinkers and alcoholics, those who used cannabis had “significantly lower odds” of developing liver disease (ALD) characterized by alcoholic steatosis (AS), steatohepatitis (AH), fibrosis, cirrhosis (AC) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), leading the authors to state:

“Our findings suggest that cannabis use is associated with reduced incidence of liver disease in alcoholics.” (Study abstract)

Fatty Liver Demands Serious Lifestyle and Dietary Changes

Fatty liver is a disease that begins with excess fat in the liver. Without lifestyle and diet changes, it progresses to creating damage to liver cells as steatohepatitis, which can easily progress to cirrhosis that may shut the liver down to cause death if a liver transplant isn’t feasible.

There are two classifications of fatty liver: Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD). The former condition is the consequence of a diet high in hydrogenated trans-fatty acid oils and margarine and highly processed carbs and sugar, the latter from too much alcohol consumption.

Whenever the fat contained in the liver is at or beyond 10 percent of the liver it is considered fatty liver. At first, there may be no observable symptoms or relatively mild symptoms of fatty liver issues, such as digestive issues and some fatigue or sluggishness and perhaps obesity.

If the excess fat toxins are released or lipid molecules begin appearing in liver cells, then it’s not just fatty liver. It becomes Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NAS) or in the case of heavy alcohol consumers, Alcohol Steatohepatitis (AS).

Either way, it’s a dangerous situation that demands serious lifestyle and dietary changes. There is no pharmaceutical industry “medicine” that’s effective for a condition that could result in needing a liver transplant.

Now cannabis is being discovered as the natural medicine that can help resist this malady or help create rapid recoveries from this malady regardless of the cause, which is on the rise, especially those that are in the NAFLD category.

Cannabis Studies Focused on Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

The surge in NAFLD cases here and in England has been a public health concern, as it foreshadows more serious liver diseases leading to more liver transplants. But increasing NAFLD in a population leaves less and less viable after-death liver donors. It’s not wise to replace a diseased liver with a diseased liver.

The study “Inverse association of marijuana use with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease among adults in the United States” was published October 19, 2017 in the journal PLOS ONE. West Coast (Stanford University) and Korean researchers collaborated one this epidemiological survey.

They analyzed over 23,000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) participants from 2004-2014 and the NHANES III survey from 1988 – 1994. This study concluded:

In this nationally representative sample, active marijuana use provided a protective effect against NAFLD independent of known metabolic risk factors. The pathophysiology is unclear and warrants further investigation. (Study text)

A review of other studies with direct and indirect implications to fatty liver and cannabis use, titled “The Role of Endocannabinoids System in Fatty Liver Disease and Therapeutic Potentials” was published by the Saudi Journal of Enterology in their July-August 2013 issue, concluding:

The use of peripherally restricted compounds with CB1 antagonist properties and limited brain penetration, such as CBD is promising. (Source)

Their effort was slanted toward the development of synthetic pharmaceutical versions of CBD and/or THC, whereas the earlier two studies analyzed statistics of actual human cannabis users compared to non-users and the comparative statistics of both non-alcoholic and alcoholic liver diseases, including fatty liver.

Because cannabis has a psychotropic effect with its “high,” there are some scientists who are overly cautious and tend to favor the pharmaceutical approach to cannabis, even while reporting:

Mounting evidence indicates that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in various liver diseases including viral hepatitis, NAFLD, alcoholic liver disease, hepatic encephalopathy, and autoimmune hepatitis. (Source)

But just like all other pharmaceuticals that extract active molecules from herbs to create copycat chemicals, they miss the point.

There are several natural cannabinoids in cannabis in addition to CBD (cannabidiol) that are non-psychotropic and psychotropic THC, over 80 discovered so far, along with many terpenes that create what cannabis people call the enterouge effect.

Medical cannabis research should be using the whole plant. It is a fast-growing plant and easily hybrid naturally to alter the balance of cannabinoids and terpenes according to medical needs. That research is hampered nationally by federal laws restricting marijuana for research funding that otherwise goes to Big Pharma.

It’s amazing that more and more states are continuing to allow medical marijuana or cannabis use for various ailments and diseases even as research is hindered. Beyond “Reefer Madness” anxiety, there are no physiological dangers with using cannabis, precluding the need for safety testing. The only research needed is to determine horticultural designs according to medical needs.

Here’s a list of cannabis studies that are known so far, proving its merit for most diseases or health conditions, without adverse effects.