Toronto, Nov 12 (IANS): Children born to pregnant women who consume cannabis for various reasons, including alleviating nausea, body aches and anxiety are likely to have an increased risk of developing diabetes, finds a study in animal models.
While existing clinical data points to negative effects like foetal growth restriction and abnormal blood sugar levels in children born to mothers who used cannabis, the impact of the non-psychoactive compound of cannabis, cannabidiol (commonly known as CBD), on metabolic outcomes of the offspring remains less understood.
The new study in animal models showed that even moderate exposure to CBD during pregnancy is linked to post-birth glucose intolerance specifically in male offspring.
"This is a critical finding, given that CBD, unlike cannabis' psychoactive compound, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is widely marketed and perceived to be a safer option by so many," said Daniel B. Hardy, Associate Professor in the departments of obstetrics and gynaecology at University of Western Ontario in Canada.
While it is THC that leads to the "high" effect cannabis users experience, CBD is the primary non-psychoactive compound in cannabis and is also medicinally used for the treatment of certain forms of epilepsy, schizophrenia, and depression.
"Our study shows that exposure to CBD alone during pregnancy can be detrimental to the metabolic health of the offspring later in life, leading to glucose intolerance. This is a major risk factor for diabetes," said Hardy.
The study, published in the Journal of Endocrinology, shows that while CBD exposure did not lead to adverse maternal or neonatal outcomes in the rodent model, by three months of age male offspring exposed to CBD during gestation exhibited glucose intolerance.
"With the latest study, we now know that gestational exposure to either cannabinoid -- THC and CBD -- can lead to glucose intolerance in the offspring.
However, THC exposure impacts the glucose tolerance of female offspring while CBD exposure impacts the male offspring," said Sebastian R. Vanin, doctoral candidate at the varsity.
The male offspring that were exposed to CBD exhibited changes in their genes that control body clocks, particularly the circadian rhythm clock.
This can adversely impact how our bodies regulate sugar or glucose.
Males also exhibited changes in how their livers develop and function, which suggests that being exposed to CBD while in the womb could harm liver development and health throughout the course of life.