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Dietary Preferences and Weight Control Behaviors Among Cannabis Consumers versus Non-Consumers: Preliminary Results of the Herbal Heart Study

Ethan Kumar
University of Miami

Co-Authors: Amrit Baral1, Ranya Marrakchi El Fellah1, Bria-Necole A Diggs1, Sarah Messiah2, Raul Gonzalez3, Barry Hurwitz1, Claudia Martinez1, Denise C Vidot1
1University of Miami, 2University of Texas, 3Florida International University

Background: With a global rise in cannabis use and evolving societal norms surrounding its legalization, there is a growing need to understand how cannabis consumption is associated with lifestyle choices. Dietary preferences, fasting, and exercise practices play a crucial role in shaping the overall health of an individual. While existing literature has reported the impact of cannabis on various health aspects, the prevalence and nature of these behaviors among cannabis users compared to non-users remain poorly understood. This study aims to provide valuable insights in 18-35-year-olds, a population with a relatively higher prevalence of cannabis use.

Methods: This analysis drew data from the initial assessment of the ongoing Herbal Heart Study cohort, investigating the impact of cannabinoids and cannabis delivery methods on subclinical cardiovascular risk in a population of healthy young adults (18-35 years) in South Florida. Participants self-reported their dietary preferences and weight control behaviors. Descriptive statistics and Chi-squared tests/Fisher’s exact test where applicable, were employed for analysis using SAS analytics.

Results: In a sample of 150 participants (mean age: 24.6 years, SD: 4.5), 66.7% were female, 51.3% Hispanic/Latino, and 50.7% reported cannabis use. The majority (78.0%) were omnivores/did not have any dietary restrictions. Only 6.7% were vegetarians, 4.7% pescatarian, 2.7% vegan, and 8.0% other. 53.0% of omnivores were cannabis users. Conversely, among pescatarians, 57.1% were non-users. Among vegetarians, 60.0% were non-users. Dietary preferences showed no significant differences between cannabis users and non-users (p=0.892). Notably, 26.7% of cannabis users, compared to 5.4% of non-users (p<.001), reported fasting/refraining from eating for weight or shape control in the past three months. Additionally, 20.0% of cannabis users, in contrast to 5.4% of non-users (p < .01), engaged in “driven” or “compulsive”; exercise for weight/shape control or burn fat or calories in the same period.

Conclusion: This study highlights a complex interplay between cannabis use and lifestyle factors among young adults, showing no significant dietary differences but a pronounced disparity in weight control practices between users and non-users. Cannabis users more frequently resort to fasting and compulsive exercise, pointing towards a behavioral pattern that may heighten cardiovascular risk. These preliminary findings underscore the importance of further research into how cannabis use influences lifestyle choices and cardiovascular health, aiming to inform strategies for this growing demographic.