Health

Could cannabis help to lower cholesterol?

As the war against cholesterol continues, research shows that one unlikely treatment could be a gamechanger for reducing levels of cholesterol in the body: smoking weed. Whilst cannabis is most commonly associated with junk-food munchies, there is a growing body of evidence to show that it could help to fight cholesterol and ward off conditions like liver disease.

What exactly is cholesterol?

In its most basic terms, cholesterol is a type of fat found in the human body. Our bodies use cholesterol for lots of important functions like creating hormones and producing bile acids to help us digest food. However, too much cholesterol can be detrimental to your health. When talking about cholesterol, it is important to remember that not all cholesterol is created equal. In the last 10 years, scientists have discovered that some cholesterol can actually be good for you, depending on what type of cholesterol it is.

Cholesterol can be split into two groups – High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL). LDL is the ‘bad cholesterol’ that health professionals have warned us about for years. LDL transports cholesterol through the body and builds up in arteries causing blockages which can lead to high blood pressure, and in extreme cases, heart attack and stroke. HDL, on the other hand, is the ‘good cholesterol’ that actually picks up other cholesterol molecules clogging up your arteries and transports them back to the liver, where they are expelled from the body.

Cholesterol

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Where does cannabis come in?

A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Cellular Physiology showed that CBD could protect the liver against “nonalcoholic steatohepatitis” induced by a high-fat, high cholesterol diet. Steatohepatitis is a type of liver disease which causes inflammation and fat accumulation in the liver and can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. Researchers found that CBD had an anti-inflammatory effect on the liver, and could protect it from more serious damage.

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An earlier 2012 study found that diabetes was less prevalent among marijuana users, and that marijuana smokers had higher levels of HDL cholesterol in their bodies compared to non-marijuana users. However, recent research also shows that the effectiveness of CBD could be enhanced by consuming the compound along with high-fat foods. A recent study has shown that higher levels of CBD were absorbed into the blood when eaten with a high-fat food, like a breakfast burrito.

To optimise the performance of your CBD without consuming too much bad cholesterol, individuals should consider consuming CBD along with healthy fats that will increase the absorption of CBD, while also providing high levels of HDL cholesterol. HDL rich foods include olive oil and oily fish like salmon and mackerel, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Some LDL heavy foods include fast food that is fried in trans fat (chips, fried chicken, basically anything delicious), as well as meat like lamb, pork and fatty beef.

Omega_Food

Eggs were once demonised for their high levels of cholesterol, and health professionals warned that people should only eat 3 eggs per week. Scientific opinion has changed on this in recent years, and eggs are now generally regarded as a healthy source of good cholesterol. More recent scientific research has shown that eating up to 3 eggs per day is perfectly safe. While there is yet to be a large body of conclusive evidence linking CBD and cannabis to better cholesterol and liver health in humans, this early research is promising for medical cannabis campaigners.

Alex White

Alex is a writer and sustainable fashion enthusiast. When they aren't writing articles for The Extract, you can find them knee-deep in the vintage section of Oxfam.

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