While previous studies have found a link between cannabis use and poor heart health, the most recent study examines data from a large sample size of half a million people to shed more light on the mechanisms underlying the relationship.
The psychoactive component of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), promotes inflammation in the endothelial cells that line the inside of blood vessels, as well as atherosclerosis in mice, according to their findings (artery hardening or thickening).
According to Stanford University researcher Mark Chandy, cannabis has a significant adverse effect on the cardiovascular system.
THC exposure causes a potentially lethal metabolic cascade in the blood arteries, as demonstrated conclusively in human cells and mice studies. And so it is not accurate to call cannabis risk-free medication.
The human component of the study included information from 500,000 people, thanks to participants in the UK Biobank initiative. Almost 11,000 cannabis smokers participated, and their risk of heart attack was found to be increased dramatically.
Aside from that, cannabis users were found to be more likely than non-users to have their first heart attack before the age of fifty. These early heart attacks may increase the likelihood of future heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues.
While this is insufficient to prove causation, the study did consider other factors such as age, BMI, and gender, among others. Cannabis use as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease may have finally been proven with substantial data.
To investigate further, the researchers discovered that three hours after smoking cannabis, the amount of inflammatory substances in participants’ blood increased significantly, which they used to test their theory. As a result of this inflammation, some people may suffer from heart attacks.
According to other studies, THC causes inflammation in cultured human endothelial cells, and lab mice injected with THC develop significantly larger atherosclerotic plaques than control mice. All of this adds up to truly well-rounded findings.
THC acts on the human brain by binding to the CB1 receptor in the brain. Following that, the researchers used machine learning techniques to identify CB1 antagonists, which are chemicals that prevent receptors from binding when they become overexcited.
While looking for it, they came across genistein (a naturally occurring substance found in soybeans). In mice, genistein appears to be capable of reducing THC’s negative effects (inflammation and atherosclerosis) while maintaining THC’s beneficial effects for medical purposes (including dulling pain and stimulating appetite).
Researchers have previously avoided CB1 antagonists due to negative side effects such as anxiety and mood problems. However, preliminary evidence suggests that genistein may not be the source of these issues.
THC’s regular analgesic and sedative effects were not reduced in mice, according to Chandy’s findings, lending credence to cannabis’ potentially useful therapeutic properties.
As a result, the study suggests that genistein may be a safer drug than previous CB1 antagonists. Given that it is already used as a dietary supplement and that 99 percent of it remains outside the brain, it should not be able to cause these specific negative side effects in this population.
In the near future, human clinical trials will be conducted to determine whether genistein can successfully reduce the risk of heart disease in cannabis smokers. Furthermore, CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, may be the subject of future research.
As long as THC is classified as a controlled substance in the United States, it can only be used in medical research under strict supervision. As a result, the researchers admit that the long-term health effects of regular cannabis use are currently unknown.
According to scientists, as cannabis legalisation spreads across the United States, it will take decades to determine long-term effects on cardiovascular health. In the meantime, additional research will be extremely beneficial.
According to Dr. Joseph Wu of Stanford University’s Department of Radiology, genistein is especially effective at preventing cannabis-induced endothelial artery damage while having no effect on the central nervous system. It could be a strategy for medical cannabis users to protect themselves from a cardiovascular problems.
Cell published the findings of this research.
Story Source: Original story written by Krista Conger in Stanford Medicine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length by Scible News.
Wei, T. T., Chandy, M., Nishiga, M., Zhang, A., Kumar, K. K., Thomas, D., Manhas, A., Rhee, S., Justesen, J. M., Chen, I. Y., Wo, H. T., Khanamiri, S., Yang, J. Y., Seidl, F. J., Burns, N. Z., Liu, C., Sayed, N., Shie, J. J., Yeh, C. F., Yang, K. C., … Wu, J. C. (2022). Cannabinoid receptor 1 antagonist genistein attenuates marijuana-induced vascular inflammation. Cell, S0092-8674(22)00443-3. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2022.04.005