Cannabis and heart health – potential risk or protective agent?
Cannabis Health News
As recent studies show conflicting findings about the effects of THC on cardiovascular health, it’s vital to look at the detail, says expert. A study led by researchers at Stanford University recently concluded that THC – the psychoactive compound found in cannabis – causes inflammation in cells that line the blood vessels and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). This could later lead to heart disease and heart attack, researchers said. But research into the effects of cannabis on cardiovascular health has been mixed, with some papers finding THC actually offers a protective effect on the heart. One study published in April this year, for example, produced results that contradicted the Stanford findings. The study of laboratory rats, published in Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark, found that THC acted as a cardioprotective by improving the metabolic activity of cells in the heart, decreasing cell damage and restoring heart mechanical function. The conflicting reports highlight the need to weigh up the evidence and “look at the detail” when it comes to scientific studies, says neurologist and chair of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society and the Cannabis Industry Council, Professor Mike Barnes. Increased risk of heart disease? Although scientists in the first study found that THC has a “significantly adverse effect on the cardiovascular system”, the study also showed that inflammation and atherosclerosis could be “blocked” by a small molecule called genistein found naturally in soy and fava beans. “As more states legalise the recreational use of marijuana, users need to be aware that it could have cardiovascular side effects,” said Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology, and the director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute. “But genistein works quite well to mitigate marijuana-induced damage of the endothelial vessels without blocking the effects marijuana has on the central nervous system, and…
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