It started as a “safe” alternative to smoking. Over the years, though, panic about just how safe vaping actually is have made headlines time and time again. Back in 2019, the CDC clarified its stance on vaping. The agency admitted that bootleg THC products were likely to blame for vaping illnesses making headlines at the time. Now, though, the stance on vaping, or e-cigarettes, continues to be one of debate. A new study on how vaping affects the brain, lungs, and the rest of the body could shed more light on the subject.
New study reveals how vaping affects the brain
Researchers published the new study in the journal eLife in early April of 2022. The researchers say that it’s the first study to assess how JUUL devices and their flavorings affect multiple organs in the body. The study was carried out by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
“These pod-based e-cigarettes have only become popular in the last five or so years,” Laura Crotty Alexander, MD, and senior author of the study explained in a statement. Crotty Alexander says that currently, we don’t know much about their long-term effects on health.
With over 12 million adults using e-cigarettes, learning more about how vaping affects the brain is more important than ever. The researchers say they focused on JUUL and its most popular flavors, mint and mango.
To model the usage of e-cigarettes, they used young adult mice. They exposed the mice to the flavored JUUL three times a day for three months. Then they looked at the body for signs of inflammation.
One of the most important effects they took note of were several inflammation markers in the brain. The researchers saw that several inflammatory markers in the brain had become elevated.
Additionally, they noted that changes in the neuroinflammatory gene expression could be seen in the nucleus accumbens. This part of the brain is critical for motivation and processing rewards.
The reason that the way vaping affects the brain is so notable is that this region has been linked to anxiety and depression. It has also been linked to addictive behavior. The researchers say this could further increase the amount of substance use as well as how addictive using the JUUL is.
But the brain isn’t the only organ that vaping affects. The study also noted increased inflammatory gene expression in the colon. The heart, on the other hand, showed decreased levels of inflammatory markers. The researchers say this state of immunosuppression could make cardiac tissue more vulnerable.
The researchers also found that the state of inflammatory response changes based if they change the flavor of JUUL, too.
It’s an interesting look at how vaping affects the brain, as well as the other organs in the body. However, it’s still just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to truly understanding how our bodies might respond to those particular chemicals.