Smoking Weed Regularly Can Increase Cardiovascular Disease Risk, Study Shows
The bad news is that marijuana isn’t as harmless as it’s purpoted to be, as per latest research. The good news, however, is that there may be a way around the health risks associated with it.
A study published in Cell analyzed data from half a million people and concluded that while regular marijuana consumption is linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks, THC is the main contributing factor. A substance called Genistein, on the other hand, could mitigate these effects.
Studying data from the UK’s biobank, THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, was found to be “implicated in CVD.” More specifically, THC plays a role in inflammation of the endothelial cells in blood vessels, and also leads to the hardening or thickening of the arteries. “Marijuana has a significantly adverse effect on the cardiovascular system,” said biologist Mark Chandy, from Stanford University, who was involved in the study .
“Our studies of human cells and mice clearly outline how THC exposure initiates a damaging molecular cascade in the blood vessels. It’s not a benign drug,” Chandy added. Those who smoked marijuana more than once a month were more likely to experience heart attacks — and cannabis smokers were more likely to experience one before the age of 50 than non-cannabis smokers, Science Alert reported.
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The reason THC is able to produce these effects is because it binds to a receptor named CB1 in the brain — and this is where genistein enters the picture. A molecule that is found in soybeans, genistein blocked the harmful effects of THC but, importantly, helped retained THC’s medical uses. Substances that can do this are called CB1 antagonists — but past attempts at finding one suitable for human use were foiled by pronounced mental health side effects.
This wasn’t the case with genistein. “So genistein is potentially a safer drug than previous CB1 antagonists. It is already used as a nutritional supplement, and 99% of it stays outside the brain, so it shouldn’t cause these particular adverse side effects,” Chandy noted.
So far, genistein was tested in mice. The next step is to move it forward into human trials to see if it can mitigate the effects of THC — especially for those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes.
It is important to note the difference between THC and CBD, or cannabinoid — the latter is the compound involved in the medicinal uses of marijuana. This isn’t the first time THC has been implicated in adverse health outcomes — and most strains of marijuana contain THC rather than CBD. CBD-dominant marijuana products, however, were associated with decreased depression, according to a previous study. The evidence in favor of CBD-dominant products is such that last year, Himachal Pradesh legalized cannabis for non-recreational, medical use.
As more states and countries begin legalizing the consumption of marijuana, being aware of the effects and making informed choices about which strains to consume, therefore, is key.