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CBD and Cholesterol: Everything You Need to Know.

Cholesterol, a type of wax-like fatty acid, found in almost all cells of your body. Required to generate hormones (like testosterone and estrogen), Vitamin D, and aid your digestive system (by producing bile), it is also responsible for several critical bodily functions, like metabolic processes in the brain.

This organic compound, produced by the liver, can be found in food items as well. For instance, meat, eggs, milk, and cheese! However, cholesterol through food intake should remain withing control, if we are to lead a healthy life.

Since cholesterol does not mix with our blood, our body breaks it down to smaller particles, known as lipoproteins for easy transportation through the body. A massive build-up of cholesterol can clog up your blood vessels, causing strain on your heart.

People, suffering from high cholesterol must be well aware of all the difficulties faced by them in regular life.

While conventional methods of treatment and pharmaceutical medications can help you, they come with more cons than pros. That is why a lot of people look for alternative methods of treating this condition, especially naturopathy.

Among such natural treatments, CBD, a cannabis-derived chemical compound, is fast gaining popularity among patients. As for managing issues relating to high blood cholesterol, it has been seen to regulate lipid uptake in humans, and indirectly influence endocannabinoid receptors (CB2, 5HT1A) that maintain blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the body.

Besides, stress and anxiety are often known for aggravating physical anomalies, like heightened cholesterol levels. CBD can address them too.

To understand exactly how CBD can help patients with cholesterol issues, read on…

The Problems of Conventional Medications For Cholesterol

To understand the issues relating to cholesterol medication, you must first understand that not all cholesterol is “bad”. You must have heard of “good” cholesterol.

Cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream by two types of lipoproteins:

  1. LDL or low-density lipoprotein (also known as “bad” cholesterol), which is mostly found in our bodies is caused by poor diet choices. This type of cholesterol, owing to its high lipid content, can build up on the walls of blood vessels, thickening it in a process, known as “plaque”, which restricts blood flow. This not only poses a risk to your heart health, but it can even lead to a stroke.
  2. HDL or high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol), on the other hand, is high on protein content and thereby absorbs cholesterol from the bloodstream and carries it back to the liver, where it is converted into bile acids and excreted by the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

While the total cholesterol level should be 170mg/dL, CDC’s 2015-16 data reveals that 95 million US adults (20+) have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL and 29 million adults have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL. What’s worse is that 7% of US children and adolescents have elevated total cholesterol.

Unfortunately, only 55% (43 million) of adults who need medicine to treat this issue are actually using it. The reason for this is that this condition isn’t easily detected, as it’s mostly symptomless. You can only find out when you are asked to undergo a test, for instance, before a surgical operation or some such pretext.

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When diagnosed, a doctor would usually prescribe medications, such as statins and blood thinners. These can reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke by over 30%. However, they carry significant side effects, such as:

  • Patients who take statins may experience –
    • Migraines
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Drowsiness
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Gastrointestinal issues
    • Possible neuropathy
    • Loss of memory
    • Type-2 diabetes
  • Patients who take blood thinners/ anticoagulants may experience
    • Heavy periods
    • Bloody or discolored urine/feces
    • Nosebleeds
    • Bleeding gums
    • Prolonged bleeding from a cut
    • Dizziness
    • Muscle fatigue
    • Hair loss
    • Rashes

Can CBD Oil Be a Better Alternative for Treating Cholesterol?

CBD oil has been known to effectively and safely help with many ailments and medical conditions in the past. Cholesterol is no different. Apparently, the cannabinoids’ role in establishing and regulating homeostasis has a lot to do with normalizing the cholesterol levels in the body. That includes both the good and bad cholesterols.

While research on CBD’s effects on cholesterol levels is scarce (like many other conditions for that matter), this phytocannabinoid has been seen to regulate lipid uptake and blood pressure in humans.

Owing to its indirect influence over certain receptors of the brain, CBD can effectively boost HDL levels, thus lowering LDL levels, in overweight, but otherwise healthy individuals. This is exactly what was discovered in a May 2020 study, published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements.

The researchers, led by Hector L Lopez, split 65 overweight, but otherwise healthy men and women, aged 24 – 46 years, into two groups. They gave one group 15mg hemp-derived CBD and the other group placebo every day for six weeks, allowing them to continue with their regular diet and normal physical activity patterns.

The results showed that subjects who were given CBD oil showed significant improvement in their HDL levels over the placebo counterparts.

Apart from an improved HDL cholesterol level, the hemp supplementation also seemed to promote sleep quality and patterns, aid better stress-coping abilities, and a perceived sense of life pleasure.

CBD was also found to be “well-tolerated” by the group, with “no clinically relevant safety concerns”.

According to a 2016 study, conducted by the Korean University of Daegu, CBD is capable of browning of fat cells, i.e. converting unhealthy white fat into healthy brown fat. This can help curb obesity.

Another 2016 placebo-controlled pilot study showed that CBD could indeed support normal insulin production and sugar metabolism. This, in turn, helps the body turn unhealthy white fat into brown fat. [Excess insulin production turns sugars into stored fat, resulting in weight gain and obesity.

An older study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in February 2013, researchers, led by Christopher P Stanley, found that CBD oil “reduces the cardiovascular response to various types of stress”, plays a protective role in reducing the effects of a cardiac arrest, reduces cardiac dysfunction associated with diabetes, protects the body from a stroke owing to its ability to maintain cerebral blood flow, promotes diabetic health, and, in turn, helps improve heart health and indirectly also treats high cholesterol.

While marijuana use is notorious for giving you the “munchies”, CBD oil has proven to have the opposite effect on users. For instance, a 2018 study, published in the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, proved that regular cannabis users had reduced body mass index and obesity rates than non-cannabis users.

While CBD can do quite a bit in boosting cardiovascular health, no evidence of CBD directly reducing LDL or “bad” cholesterol has been found so far. This means that CBD only indirectly aids in lowering the causative factors that lead to high cholesterol levels and poor heart health – not directly.

Parting Thoughts

The lack of direct proof of CBD’s relation to “bad” cholesterol shouldn’t be a deterrent to using CBD to improve our chances of preventing a cardiac arrest or a stroke.

In fact, the proof of what CBD CAN do to promote heart health should be adequate to suggest that this is, at least, a safer and better option than the conventional methods that could give rise to more severe, adverse effects that our already-weakened body may not be equipped enough to cope.

However, we must remember that CBD, like any other cannabinoid, impacts people differently. While it may have excellent effects on some individuals, others may not feel its benefits at all. That’s why it’s best to consult your medical practitioner before introducing a new substance to your system.

A doctor, with some knowledge of cannabis use, should be able to gauge its effects on the body. Besides, he would be a better judge at determining how your body will react to it, based on your other preexisting conditions and any medications that you may be on for those issues as well as for cholesterol.

Ivan writes about Cannabis at The Cannabis Radar. He has a degree in Nutrition Sciences from University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre. He likes to spend his spare time reading to his daughter or spending time with his wife.

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