In this article, we look at what cholesterol is, the problems associated with statins, and research which on CBD for high cholesterol. CBD may be used to manage cholesterol levels. It has suggested health benefits, like regulating heart health and preventing stroke. Learn more.
Can CBD Oil Lower Cholesterol Levels? [Exploring the FACTS]
According to the CDC, about 37% of Americans are living with elevated cholesterol; a condition that potentially doubles the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Worryingly, only 55% of adults who need medicine to treat this issue are using it. The problem with detecting high cholesterol is that it’s symptomless; you could have the condition without even realizing it.
If a doctor diagnoses you with high cholesterol, it’s likely they will recommend a medication known as a statin. Statins can help lower the risk of things like heart attack and stroke by over 30%.
However, there are a list of adverse side effects that come along with most prescription statins. For example, patients with high cholesterol that take statins may experience migraines, trouble sleeping, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and gastrointestinal issues, just to name a few. Statins can also increase the likelihood of developing neuropathy, loss of memory, and even type-2 diabetes.
CBD oil for lowering cholesterol; is there any merit to the discussion?
Given the popularity of CBD oil in recent years, the discussion of using CBD oil to lower cholesterol has been brought up. But is there any clinical proof of CBD having an effect on cholesterol levels?
In this article, we look at what cholesterol is and why you’re likely to have high cholesterol. We’ll also examine various problems associated with statins, and discuss relevant scientific research relating to cannabis, CBD, and cholesterol levels.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a lipid found in your body’s cells. Though it generally has a negative connotation given its link to heart disease, cholesterol is actually essential and serves many important functions. It influences the creation of hormones, the synthesis of vitamin D, and helps to digest food correctly.
Cholesterol categorizes into two types: Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL, aka ‘bad’ cholesterol), and High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL, aka ‘good’ cholesterol).
HDL helps remove LDL deposits and limits the buildup of plaque that leads to things like heart attack and stroke. If LDL levels are too high, plaque accumulation inside blood vessels can cause arteries to harden and become narrower. Plaque buildup can cause arteries to become fully blocked. A blocked artery prevents blood from reaching vital organs and tissues. The result is a heart attack or stroke.
What Causes High Cholesterol?
Typically, your cholesterol level increases with age. There are a number of lifestyle choices that contribute to increased LDL cholesterol levels, such as smoking, being overweight, and eating too many saturated fats. Dietary culprits that typically lead to high cholesterol are dairy items, processed foods, and fatty red meats. A lack of physical activity can also negatively impact cholesterol levels. This is why many health experts suggest a minimum of 20 minutes of physical activity a day.
The Problem with Statins
The first thing any person with high cholesterol levels might want to do is take a long, hard look at their lifestyle. They may want to incorporate fish, lean meats, low-fat products, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains into their diet. As for smokers, most any health professional would recommend quitting in order to lower excessive cholesterol levels.
In terms of medication for lowering cholesterol, it is common for physicians to prescribe statins. Statins inhibit an enzyme that the liver needs to produce LDL cholesterol. They also slightly increase HDL levels, which can move ‘bad’ cholesterol from the arteries to the liver.
Millions of Americans are currently using statins, and health experts suggest that millions more need to be using them. For example, the American College of Cardiology issued a set of recommendations for statins suggesting over 26 million Americans should be using them.
There’s a problem with these recommendations…
According to these numbers, at least one-third of people aged 40-75 with no history of cardiovascular problems should be on statin medication. Since statistics on the effectiveness of statins vary, however, Dr. Rita Redberg of the University of California in San Francisco suggests using cholesterol calculating tools – like the Framingham Calculator – to estimate personal cardiovascular risk.
Also, a realistic concern with statin use is the range of adverse side effects that they produce. Statins can cause things like liver damage and rhabdomyolysis – a condition that damages muscle cells. Further concerns include an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, increased blood sugar, and memory problems. That’s a lot of risk for a drug that may not help you in the long run.
Is CBD a Better Alternative for Lowering Cholesterol?
To put it bluntly, there is no clinical evidence on the use of CBD to lower cholesterol levels. No one should suggest or recommend that CBD can function in place of statins, or even in place of a lifestyle change.
That said, one study does discuss a potential relationship between cannabidiol use and “cholesterol metabolism-related genes.” The study, which appears in a 2011 edition of Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, suggests that “CBD treatment modulates cholesterol homeostasis in microglial cells.”
Does this mean you can use CBD to help lower your cholesterol?
Not quite. While the findings of this particular study are intriguing, the results have no clinical bearing on the use of CBD for cholesterol level management.
A separate 2017 study in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research also discusses the effect of CBD use on cholesterol. The study claims that CBD “increased cholesterol levels in WT [wild-type] mice, but not in CBD-treated transgenic [laboratory-bred] mice.” Researchers state that the lack of effect on cholesterol in the transgenic mice was likely due to “already-elevated cholesterol [levels] in the transgenic mice.”
Interestingly, later in the study researchers discuss the potential benefits of cannabidiol on hyperglycemia. In obese mice, it was observed that a four-week CBD treatment of 3 mg per kg of body weight “increased HDL-C concentration by 55% and reduced total cholesterol levels by more than 25%.”
Again, although this research is very interesting, it has no bearing on the practical use of CBD oil for lowering cholesterol levels. While there may indeed be a physiological relationship between the two, more research is needed.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Reducing LDL Cholesterol
All in all, there is no explicit clinical evidence that CBD oil (or any other CBD product) can help reduce cholesterol levels. Many full-spectrum CBD oils contain healthy omega acids, which may help reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular disease. Again, however, this does not denote that CBD has any specific relationship with blood cholesterol levels.
Remember, however, that research into CBD is still very much in its infancy. There may be additional physiological properties of CBD that relate to cardiovascular health, but for now, little is known on the topic. As research improves, we are likely to witness some exciting discoveries in the future.
CBD for Cholesterol – August 2022
Why People Are Using CBD for Cholesterol Management
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that almost 29 million American adults have high cholesterol levels (6) . Having excessive cholesterol levels, bad cholesterol in particular, increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Cholesterol can be classified into two types: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL is known as bad cholesterol that blocks the arteries. The blockage may lead to cardiovascular diseases, like heart attack and stroke.
Meanwhile, HDL is the good cholesterol that carries lipids (fats) from other parts of the body to the liver.
High cholesterol levels may also be a sign of high levels of triglycerides (7) . These substances are a type of lipid found in the blood, like cholesterol. Unused calories stored in the body are converted into this lipid.
Similar to cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides can cause heart problems (8) .
Managing cholesterol-related complications goes beyond trying to lower cholesterol levels.
An increase in good cholesterol or HDL lowers the risk of individuals developing conditions, such as stroke (9) .
Some statins, the conventional prescription medications for cholesterol, boost HDL levels to aid in transporting the bad cholesterol from the arteries to the liver (10) .
However, the use of statins may have side effects, like liver damage and rhabdomyolysis (11) .
Rhabdomyolysis, a condition where the muscles break down rapidly, could lead to kidney failure.
An animal study showed that cannabidiol (CBD) increased good cholesterol in the test subjects (12) .
CBD is the non-psychoactive compound abundant in hemp plants, a variety of cannabis plants.
In the study, which was conducted on obese mice models, the animals were treated with CBD for four weeks. Results showed a 55% increase in HDL cholesterol levels and a 25% decrease in total cholesterol levels.
The authors also observed reduced triglyceride levels in the test subjects.
Thus, CBD’s effects on cholesterol may be similar to medications under the statins drug class. However, compared with statins, CBD’s safety profile may be more favorable.
CBD’s common side effects are minimal, including diarrhea, tiredness, and changes in appetite or weight (13) .
High blood pressure or hypertension can also be linked to high cholesterol levels (14) . When arteries are blocked with cholesterol, it gets harder for the heart to pump, which leads to an increase in blood pressure.
People with diabetes and high cholesterol are at higher risk for cardiovascular complications and need proven cholesterol medications like statins. CBD may be a helpful adjunctive, but should never replace established medications prescribed by your doctor.
In a study, healthy volunteers were administered CBD to see if it could reduce blood pressure (15) . Blood pressure is defined in this study as the body’s response to stress.
Several tests were conducted to induce stress in the volunteers and to increase blood pressure. Results showed that a single dose of CBD reduced blood pressure during the pre-stress and post-stress tests.
Cholesterol is a fat-like and waxy substance essential in hormone and vitamin D production and food digestion.
It can be found in food, like animal meat, dairy products, fried and processed foods. Too much of these fatty and oily foods can increase cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol build-up may come with age. Its development depends on one’s lifestyle and dietary choices.
How CBD Oil Works to Help Cholesterol Management
Having high cholesterol has no symptoms. However, it can lead to several complications, such as stroke and heart attack (16) .
CBD for Stroke
In a study conducted in patients with ischemic stroke, CBD has shown potential as a protective agent in preventing post-ischemic injury by increasing cerebral blood flow. This action also has a therapeutic mechanism in oxidative disorders (17) .
Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when the artery that supplies blood to the brain gets blocked.
In another study, CBD decreased tissue damage and inflammatory protein release in cell injury in the early phases of stroke (18) .
The researchers also tested the compound’s effects three days after the ischemic stroke and found that CBD still had cerebroprotective effects.
CBD for Heart Attack
In an experiment conducted on rats, CBD demonstrated its cardioprotective function by reducing the size of the damaged area where arteries are blocked during a heart attack (19) .
Consequently, the same test was given to the same condition ex vivo (outside the test subject). However, the results were the opposite.
The size reduction of the artery’s damaged area in vivo (inside the test subjects) may be related to the compound’s anti-inflammatory properties.
In another study with rabbits as test subjects, the researchers found that CBD helped reduce the size of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and contributed to the restoration of the heart’s left ventricular function (20) .
AMI, which literally means “death of heart muscle,” is also referred to as heart attack (21) .
A review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology outlined CBD’s potential cardioprotective properties. These positive effects on the heart include CBD’s purported attenuation of cardiovascular response to several types of stress (22) .
The researchers also stated that CBD might have a protective role in reducing the damages in models of stroke.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Cholesterol
- Compared to most cholesterol prescription drugs that can cause severe side effects, CBD may be safer to use (23) .
- Studies previously mentioned showed CBD’s potential therapeutic effects on complications related to bad cholesterol build-up.
- CBD products may be purchased over-the-counter without a doctor’s prescription in states and areas where they are legally available.
- There is a lack of studies that can provide evidence that CBD helps lower cholesterol levels.
- The use of CBD for treating medical conditions other than epilepsy has not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (24) .
- Some CBD products have unverified claims that can harm users. FDA has posted a warning about these false claims (25) .
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for High Cholesterol
Daily physical activity can help increase HDL levels and reduce the risks of cardiovascular complications (26) .
Dietary supplements and food rich in omega-3 can also lower triglyceride levels (27) .
Like these treatments, CBD oil may be explored as a substance that could help improve cholesterol levels and relieve high cholesterol-related complications.
Similar to food that can lower triglyceride levels, CBD products that use hemp oil as their carrier oil contain nutrients that may lower lipid levels in the body.
Hempseed oil, extracted from pressing hemp seeds, contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (28) .
How to Choose the Right CBD Oil for Cholesterol
In choosing which type of CBD oil to use, it is best to know what components each type has.
From its name, CBD isolate is made from isolated cannabidiol.
The CBD type that uses almost all phytocompounds from the cannabis plant is called broad-spectrum CBD. It does not contain the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
Full-spectrum CBD contains all the compounds present in the hemp plant. These compounds include phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
Among the three, the full-spectrum CBD type is preferred. It is believed to create an entourage effect, the maximum synergistic effect of all the compounds present in the Cannabis sativa plant.
CBD Dosage for Cholesterol
There is no standard CBD dosage, as it is dependent on several factors, including body weight, body chemistry, medical condition, and CBD concentration of the product.
First-time users may start with low dosages, about 20 to 40mg of CBD per day. After a week, dosages may be increased by 5mg if desired results are not achieved.
A study showed that up to 1,500mg of CBD per day is well-tolerated (29) . Still, it is best to consult a doctor on the right CBD dosage or other medication choice for cholesterol management.
How to Take CBD Oil for Cholesterol
Conventional ways of taking CBD products include oral ingestion or inhalation.
CBD oil and tinctures are common ways to ingest CBD. Both forms can be taken sublingually or mixed with food or beverages.
Individuals who want to help manage their cholesterol levels may also take CBD through vape pens. The effects are instantaneous since the compound goes directly through the bloodstream when inhaled.
However, it is essential to note that vaping may cause lung problems (30) .
The Legality of CBD
The use of CBD for medical purposes is allowed in 18 out of 50 states and territories in the United States (31) .
Virginia, Wisconsin, and Kansas have legalized the use of CBD for any medical condition diagnosed by a physician.
Iowa and Georgia have also permitted the use of the compound for chronic and intractable pain relief.
CBD products for medicinal purposes should contain 10% to 15% of CBD and no more than 0.3% to 0.5% of THC, with both figures based on the product volume.
Not all cholesterol is harmful to the body. Good cholesterol is essential to overall health. Meanwhile, bad cholesterol may result in complications in different regions of the body, like the cardiovascular system.
CBD oil may be used to manage cholesterol levels. It has suggested health benefits, like regulating heart health and preventing stroke.
It is important to ask for a trusted physician’s advice before using any CBD product and never self-diagnose or self-treat .
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- Hayakawa, K., Mishima, K., & Fujiwara, M. (2010). Therapeutic Potential of Non-Psychotropic Cannabidiol in Ischemic Stroke. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland) , 3 (7), 2197–2212. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3072197
- High Cholesterol. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://strokefoundation.org.au/About-Stroke/Prevent-Stroke/High%20cholesterol
- Stanley, C. P., Hind, W. H., & O’Sullivan, S. E. (2013). Is the cardiovascular system a therapeutic target for cannabidiol?. British journal of clinical pharmacology , 75 (2), 313–322. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04351.x
- Gidding, S. S., & Allen, N. B. (2019, May 29). Cholesterol and Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease: A Lifelong Problem. Retrieved from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.119.012924
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 2). High Cholesterol Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/facts.htm
- Bitzur, R., Cohen, H., Kamari, Y., Shaish, A., & Harats, D. (2009). Triglycerides and HDL cholesterol: stars or second leads in diabetes?. Diabetes care, 32 Suppl 2(Suppl 2), S373–S377. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc09-S343
- High Cholesterol. op. cit.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, October 24). HDL cholesterol: How to boost your ‘good’ cholesterol. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/hdl-cholesterol/art-20046388
- Golomb, B. A., & Evans, M. A. (2008). Statin adverse effects : a review of the literature and evidence for a mitochondrial mechanism. American journal of cardiovascular drugs : drugs, devices, and other interventions, 8(6), 373–418. https://doi.org/10.2165/0129784-200808060-00004
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- Avci, E., Dolapoglu, A., & Akgun, D. E. (2018). Role of Cholesterol as a Risk Factor in Cardiovascular Diseases. Cholesterol – Good, Bad and the Heart, N/D. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.76357
- Hayakawa, K. op. cit.
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- Heart attack. (2020, June 16). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-attack/symptoms-causes/syc-20373106
- Stanley, C. P. op. Cit.
- Iffland, K. op. Cit.
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