According to a 2015-2016 US government survey, about 12% of adults aged 20 years (or above) reported having more than 240 mg/dl cholesterol. High cholesterol is the fifth leading cause of death amongst US citizens. Doctors have been trying to use several medications and lifestyle changes to reduce the cholesterol levels of patients. But are there any natural solutions to it? Cannabis has already been proven to be effective as an alternative medicine to treat a wide range of health issues. Seizures, depression, anxiety, chronic pain – Cannabis can help treat or manage these (and many more) conditions. But can cannabis help to keep your cholesterol in check? Is it safe to use CBD if you have high cholesterol? There has been ongoing research exploring the relationship between cannabis and cholesterol. But before getting to know more about that, let’s look at what cholesterol is?
There are a lot of misconceptions about cholesterol. Always portrayed in a negative light, cholesterols are of two types:
- Good Cholesterol or High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
- Bad Cholesterol or Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
Before the article moves forward to address the association between cholesterol and cannabis, here is all you need to know about the former. Cholesterol is a naturally occurring lipoprotein. Therefore, cholesterol contains fats and proteins. It is present in every cell membrane. Moreover, cholesterol is responsible for carrying out essential bodily functions such as generating Vitamin D, digesting several food items, and hormone production. There are two sources of cholesterol – endogenous source and exogenous source. The liver and intestine produce cholesterol endogenously. When there is not enough HDL, and an excessive amount of LDL is present, it leads to ‘high cholesterol levels. But why is it harmful?
Excessive amounts of cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis. In simple words, cholesterol can clog up your arteries and lead to plaque formation. Hence, your blood flow will be restricted. Common causes of excessive cholesterol are:
- Massive amounts of trans and saturated fat in the diet
- Genetic predisposition
- Kidney or liver disease
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
- Inactive thyroid gland
- Certain drugs that can increase LDL, such as anabolic steroids, corticosteroids, and progestins.
High cholesterol can lead to cardiac arrest. Get yourself checked regularly to avoid complications.
The Average Level of Cholesterol
Before we talk about the relationship between cannabis and cholesterol, let’s look at an average level of cholesterol? Usually, cholesterol tends to increase with age. Usually, children do not suffer from high cholesterol. You can check their cholesterol levels once in a blue moon. However, if the child is obese or has other risk factors of cholesterol, he/she needs to get checked regularly. On average, men tend to have higher levels of cholesterol than women. However, women tend to experience high cholesterol levels after reaching menopause. The doctor recommended cholesterol levels are:
- For adults: the total cholesterol levels should not be more than 200 mg/dl. A reading of 240 mg/dl or total cholesterol is considered extremely high cholesterol levels. The LDL cholesterol levels of a healthy adult should not be more than 100 mg/dl. If the LDL cholesterol level is between 100 – 129 mg/dl, it might not be a problem for a healthy individual. However, it can be a problem for those who are more susceptible to suffer from heart diseases. A reading of 190 mg/dl or more is considered to be extremely high. HDL levels should continuously be increased. A reading below 40 mg/dl is not a good sign. The ideal HDL level of a healthy individual is 60 mg/dl.
- For children: A healthy child should have his/her cholesterol level below 170 mg/dl. If it is over 200 mg/dl, then it can lead to severe issues. The optimal LDL reading for a child should be less than 110 mg/dl. If the LDL cholesterol level is 130 mg/dl, it is considered extremely high.
How to Lower Cholesterol? (Without Using Cannabis)
There are a few common ways through which you can reduce your cholesterol levels. The first method is to make severe lifestyle changes. It includes weight management, exercise, and diet. The diet should consist of low saturated fats. Moreover, it should contain fruits, fish, lean meat, vegetables, and whole grains.
Similarly, you also need to increase the number of soluble fibers in your diet to control your cholesterol levels. A couple of food items, like margarine, can reduce the amount of LDL in your body. Doctors recommend patients exercise for at least 30 mins per day to lower their cholesterol. Another method of reducing cholesterol or reducing its absorption rate is using drug therapies—drugs such as cholesterol absorption inhibitors and statins. The former helps to reduce the amount of triglyceride in your body.
Moreover, they also help to reduce cholesterol absorption by your body. Statins block cholesterol production in the liver. Similarly, bile acid sequestrants can help. These drugs help to decrease fat absorption from food. Lastly, vitamins and supplements can help to decrease the removal of HDL for your body.
Understanding CBD and Cholesterol
As it was previously mentioned, there are several CBD health benefits. But can it help with cholesterol? There need to be more studies on this topic. However, the existing research suggests that cannabis can help to reduce cholesterol levels. Moreover, it can help to increase the strength of your heart. Stanley et al. conducted a study on CBD properties and concluded that cannabis could benefit your cardiovascular system. Phytocannabinoids, as well as endocannabinoids, can lead to vascular relaxation. Moreover, endocannabinoids mediate the effects of arteriosclerosis, heart injury, and other risk factors of heart diseases.
How Does CBD Help with Cholesterol Level Issues?
Since there has not been enough research conducted on the relationship between cannabis and cholesterol, the mechanism of CBD in reducing cholesterol is not precisely clear. However, there are a few speculations. Researchers suggest that CBD helps to reduce cholesterol levels as it controls several bodily functions. Endocannabinoids in your body helps you to sleep, regulates mood, as well as several other processes. CBD interacts similarly. It interacts with CB1 receptors and hence, controls how much cholesterol will be stored in your cells. As a result, your heart does not have to pump a lot of blood.
More Beneficial Research on Cannabinoids & Cholesterol Level
Research conducted in 2017 for ‘Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research found that cannabis increased a few wild mice’s cholesterol levels. But it didn’t show any effects on already transgenic mice who had high levels of cholesterol. Moreover, in the case of obese mice, the HDL was increased by 55%. The total cholesterol was reduced by 25%. Another research conducted by Steven E. Guard et al. in 2020 suggested that CBD incorporate itself into your cellular membrane. It can alter the chemical activity of cholesterol and can increase lipid order. Hence, CBD can be a viable therapeutic measure to control cholesterol.
Can CBD Reduce High-Level Cholesterol Issues?
Although there needs to be more research about the benefits of cannabis regarding heart-related issues, CBD can be used in smaller dosages to reduce high-level cholesterol. However, it would be best if you always asked a doctor before you start taking it. It is better to take CBD in other forms apart from smoking. Cannabis is available as oils, tinctures, gummies as well as other edibles.
Is It Safe to Take CBD Oil with High-Level Cholesterol?
High cholesterol patients can use CBD oil. Researchers have been trying to use it as an alternative medicine to manage cholesterol levels. However, you should only use cannabis for its marijuana benefits if your doctor permits you. CBD cannot get you high. But it might interact with your cholesterol medication and complicate things. For example, CBD inhibits the activity of certain kinds of liver enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for metabolizing drugs such as atorvastatin and simvastatin.
There may be a possible association between cannabis and cholesterol. However, it is not yet clear. People initially thought of CBD as a method of getting high. But that is not true. CBD is not a psychoactive compound. Hence, you cannot get high by using it. CBD has others health benefits. Therefore, it won’t be surprising if CBD emerges as one of the front-runners in treating high cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that CBD alone cannot reduce your cholesterol magically. You have to make some lifestyle changes.
If you are a smoker, you need to quit as soon as possible as it increases your chances of getting a heart attack. Try to exercise almost every day. A sedentary lifestyle is the breeding ground for bad cholesterol. Moreover, practice mindful eating and try to include more fruits as well as veggies in your diet. Only then will you be able to avoid heat-related issues.