New Study Shows E-Cigarette Solutions May Increase Cardiovascular Risk
New research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that regular use of e-cigarettes harms blood vessel function, causing damage that often precedes cardiovascular disease.
While many smokers have turned to “vaping” thinking that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, studies like these show that e-cigarettes may not be as benign as previously believed.
A Healthy Endothelium is Critical to a Healthy Cardiovascular System
Scientists from Stanford Cardiovascular Institute wanted to investigate the effects of flavored e-cigarette liquids (e-liquids) on blood-vessel health, particularly on endothelial function. Endothelial cells form the “endothelium,” a thin lining that coats the inner surface of all blood vessels from the heart to the smallest capillaries.
This layer of cells is not just a lining, but an active organ that secretes chemical signals to maintain healthy circulation. Endothelial cells help make sure blood flows uninhibited throughout the body, and also repair tissues and encourage growth as needed.
When the endothelium becomes damaged, endothelial dysfunction results, which increases the risk of cardiovascular problems like inflammation, blood vessel narrowing, and clotting. Endothelial dysfunction typically precedes atherosclerosis (artery narrowing) and is an independent predictor of heart attack and stroke.
Scientists now know that protecting the health of the endothelium is critical to maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. E-cigarettes, however, may cause and accelerate damage to this critical system.
Study Shows Exposure to E-Liquids Causes Damage to Endothelial Cells
For the study, scientists tested the effects of e-liquids and blood isolated from e-cigarette users on endothelial cells. The results showed the following:
- The effects of the e-liquids varied considerably between the various flavors.
- The cinnamon-flavored product was the most toxic and led to significantly decreased cell viability and increased free-radical levels, and resulted in endothelial dysfunction. Caramel and vanilla also disrupted cell growth.
- All e-liquids induced inflammatory action in the endothelial cells and led to increased free-radical damage.
- After exposure to the blood from e-cigarette users, the endothelium started to malfunction. There was also an increase in inflammatory cytokines.
The scientists concluded, “Acute exposure to flavored e-liquids or e-cigarette use exacerbates endothelial dysfunction, which often precedes cardiovascular diseases.”
E-Cigarettes Risky for Youth
These and other studies have demonstrated that e-cigarettes present health risks. In a March 2017 study, scientists reported that habitual use of e-cigarettes was associated with increased oxidative stress and a shift in cardiac tone—both associated with an increase in cardiovascular risk.
Other research has indicated that e-cigarettes can increase the risk of oral cancer and that the e-liquids contain ingredients including propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin that expose users to toxins when inhaled.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth, with use among middle and high school students increasing 900 percent during 2011-2015.
Along with the potential increased risk for cardiovascular injuries, e-cigarettes have been increasingly linked to explosions due to defective lithium-ion batteries. These exploding vape devices have been known to cause severe burns, break bones, severe scarring, and even death.