Research suggests prenatal exposure to cannabis increases diabetes risk in offspring


Cannabis consumption is prevalent among pregnant women in North America, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 24 years. They report using it for various reasons, including alleviating nausea, body aches, and anxiety related to pregnancy.

While existing clinical data points to negative effects like fetal 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.

A new study in animal models, led by Ph.D. candidate Sebastian R. Vanin, under the supervision of Western professor Daniel B. Hardy, has shown that even moderate exposure to CBD during pregnancy is linked to post-birth glucose intolerance specifically in male offspring.

Key Findings

  • Exposure to CBD alone during pregnancy can be detrimental to the metabolic health of the offspring later in life, leading to glucose intolerance.
  • Glucose intolerance is a major risk factor for diabetes.
  • Gestational exposure to either cannabinoid—THC and CBD—can lead to glucose intolerance in the offspring.
  • Male offspring 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.

Implications for Future Research

  • More research is needed to understand the long-term effects of cannabis exposure on offspring health.
  • Researchers are also interested in studying how cannabis exposure during pregnancy influences the development of other metabolic organs, including the pancreas, liver, and heart.
  • Researchers are also interested in studying how paternal cannabis exposure impacts fetal growth and development.

Recommendations for Pregnant Women

  • Pregnant women should avoid using cannabis, including CBD.
  • If you are pregnant and have questions about cannabis use, talk to your doctor.