Article image

E-cigarettes found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease

A recent study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine has revealed that inhaling the liquid flavoring used in electronic cigarettes may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study was focused on cells that line the interior of blood vessels called endothelial cells. When these cells were exposed to e-liquids in the lab, they became less viable with increased levels of molecules that are associated with DNA damage and cell death.

The researchers found that some aspects of the damage were present even in the absence of nicotine. The extent of the damage varied among flavors, with cinnamon and menthol found to be the most harmful.

“Until now, we had no data about how these e-liquids affect human endothelial cells,” said study senior author Dr. Joseph Wu. “This study clearly shows that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. When we exposed the cells to six different flavors of e-liquid with varying levels of nicotine, we saw significant damage. The cells were less viable in culture, and they began to exhibit multiple symptoms of dysfunction.”

Despite the fact that the demand for e-cigarettes has exploded over the last decade, their effects on vascular health are not yet clear. The Food and Drug Administration estimated that more than 3.5 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2018.

“One in five high school students have tried e-cigarettes, perhaps because they feel they are relatively safe,” said study co-lead author Dr. Won Hee. “But we found the e-liquids caused changes in the endothelial cells that are closely related to those seen during the development of cardiovascular disease.”

The researchers also tested the blood serum of people after that had either vaped e-cigarettes or smoked traditional cigarettes to compare the levels of nicotine. After ten minutes of smoking at a constant rate, the amounts of nicotine in the blood were similar between the two groups.

“When you’re smoking a traditional cigarette, you have a sense of how many cigarettes you’re smoking,” said Dr. Wu. “But e-cigarettes can be deceptive. It’s much easier to expose yourself to a much higher level of nicotine over a shorter time period. And now we know that e-cigarettes are likely to have other significantly toxic effects on vascular function as well. It’s important for e-cigarette users to realize that these chemicals are circulating within their bodies and affecting their vascular health.”

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Shutterstock

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day