APR 15, 2022 4:00 AM PDT

The Link Between Fetal Cannabis Exposure and Obesity

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

A recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found a mother’s cannabis consumption during gestation may cause obesity later in the child’s life. The researchers assessed 103 groups of mothers and their 5-year-old children included in a Colorado Healthy Start Program in order to determine long-term impacts on metabolic functions. 

The analytic sample included racially and ethnically diverse women participating in the Healthy Start Program. Mothers identified as 59% white, 27% Hispanic, 7% Black, with an additional 7% identifying as other or mixed ethnicities. Most of these mothers have a college education (77%) and an annual household income less than $70,000 (49%). Researchers did not detect any meaningful differences in terms of maternal education, birthweight, maternal age, pre-pregnancy BMI, gestational weight gain, or gestational age at birth.

The researchers conducted urinalysis for 12 cannabis/cannabinoid metabolites at 27 weeks of gestation and found that about 15 percent of the mothers had detectable cannabinoids in their systems. When the children turned 5 years old, the researchers measured their fat-free mass and fat mass using air displacement plethysmography. Glucose and insulin levels were tested after an overnight fast. Generalized linear models analyzed the relationship between fetal exposure to cannabis and metabolic markers (eg, insulin, glucose), a homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and obesity markers (eg, body mass index (BMI), lean body mass), fat mass, adiposity and BMI z-score. The results showed that children exposed to cannabis in utero had higher fasting blood glucose, fat mass, and obesity levels

Lead researcher Dr. Brianna Moore recommends avoiding cannabis use during pregnancy, and she echoes the concerns of many medical professionals. According to Moore, "The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is officially advising women not to use marijuana during pregnancy or breastfeeding to limit the effects on offspring. There's really a lot we don't know, but researchers across the country are starting to pay more attention to it, and there's evidence that it affects offspring.” Future research studies will seek to validate the link between fetal cannabis exposure and increased adiposity and fasting glucose levels in early childhood. 

Sources: 

Eureka Science News Alert, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

 

About the Author
BA and MA in English, MPS in Human Relations, and Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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