Can CBD Oil Lower Cholesterol Levels? [Exploring the FACTS]

Explore the facts on how CBD can help to balance cholesterol

According to the CDC, an estimated 37% of Americans are living with ‘high’ 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 thing about high cholesterol is that it’s symptomless, so you could have the problem without even realizing.

If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, it’s likely that your physician will recommend a medication known as a ‘statin.’ However, there is a myriad of side effects associated with statins, and in the modern era, there is little question that these drugs are overprescribed. CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid in marijuana, has been championed as a better way to lower cholesterol.

In this article, we look at what cholesterol is, why you’re likely to have high cholesterol, the problems associated with statins, and scientific research which suggests that CBD could be a better alternative.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is an organic compound found in your body’s cells. It is essential because it is involved in numerous bodily functions including the creation of hormones, synthesizing vitamin D, and producing the substances your body needs to digest food correctly. The old saying ‘you can never have too much of a good thing’ is NOT applicable to cholesterol: Too much of it can cause serious health issues.

Cholesterol is neatly divided into two types; Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) – or ‘bad’ cholesterol – and High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL), also known as ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL helps remove LDL deposits, but if you have too much of the latter, it accumulates inside the blood vessels and causes your arteries to become narrower and harder. Eventually, a clogged artery can become blocked, and this prevents blood from reaching vital organs and tissues on the other side of the blockage. The result is a heart attack or stroke.

What Causes High Cholesterol?

Typically, your cholesterol level increases with age, although it is still advisable to ensure your children have their levels checked before they reach the age of 18. Your HDL and LDL levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Here’s a quick cholesterol guideline according to age and gender:

Recommended Cholesterol Levels for Children

  • Total: 169 mg/dL or less.
  • LDL: 99 mg/dL or less.
  • HDL: 45 mg/dL or more.
  • Non-HDL: 119 mg/dL or less.

Recommended Cholesterol Levels for Adult Males

  • Total: 125-200 mg/dL or less.
  • LDL: 99 mg/dL or less.
  • HDL: 40 mg/dL or more.
  • Non-HDL: 129 mg/dL or less.

Recommended Cholesterol Levels for Adult Females

  • Total: 125-200 mg/dL or less.
  • LDL: 99 mg/dL or less.
  • HDL: 50 mg/dL or more.
  • Non-HDL: 129 mg/dL or less.

In adults, a total reading of 200-239 is considered high, while 240+ is dangerously high. LDL levels of 130-159 are concerning, 160-189 is considered too high, and a reading of 190+ means you are at increased risk of a cardiovascular condition. HDL levels need to be higher, and a reading of below 40 mg/dL is a major risk factor for heart disease. Ideally, your HDL level as an adult will be 60+.

There are a number of lifestyle choices that contribute to increased LDL cholesterol levels:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Eating too much saturated fat. The main culprits are dairy products, processed food, baked goods, and fatty meat.
  • A lack of physical activity also negatively impacts cholesterol levels. Aim for 30+ minutes of physical activity five days a week.

The Problem with Statins

The first thing any person with high cholesterol levels needs to do is take a long, hard look at their lifestyle. You need to incorporate fish, lean meats, low-fat products, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet. If you’re a smoker, it is time to quit. One option for smokers is to vape CBD; it could help lower your cholesterol levels and ensure you get the smoking action you crave.

Unfortunately, it is common for physicians to prescribe statins to a majority of patients with high cholesterol. Although prescription medication should always remain an option for people when other tactics fail, it seems as if statins are being handed out all too readily.

Statins inhibit an enzyme that your liver needs to produce LDL cholesterol. They also slightly increase HDL levels, which can move ‘bad’ cholesterol from the arteries to the liver. The big issue is the disparity amongst statin guidelines. For example, the American College of Cardiology, in concert with the American Heart Association, issued a set of recommendations for statins which meant over 26 million Americans should use them.

Meanwhile, the United States Preventive Services Task Force issued its own set of guidelines which covered 17 million citizens; nine million fewer than the other study. The chief concern is that both sets of guidelines would issue statins to at least one-third of people aged 40-75 with no history of cardiovascular problems.

According to Dr. Rita Redberg of the University of California, in San Francisco, only 2% of statins users will avoid a heart attack, and no one will live longer because they take the medication! Further analysis suggests that 250 people would need to use statins for 1-6 years to prevent one death from any cause!

The problem with statins is the associated side effects. For example, they could cause liver damage, or rhabdomyolysis – a condition where the cells of muscles are damaged. 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?

Studies of CBD’s impact on cholesterol levels are relatively new; although there is likely to be a significant increase once industrial hemp is taken off the list of controlled substances. A study* by Rimmerman et al., published in Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, looked at how CBD affected metabolism-related genes in microglial cells. Ultimately, the study determined that “CBD treatment modules cholesterol homeostasis in microglial cells.”

Back in November 2012, the famed Israeli medical marijuana facility Tikun Olam released a new cannabis strain high in CBD and low in THC. The facility began research in 2009, and three years later developed a strain called Avidekel which contains almost 16% CBD and less than 1% THC. Interestingly, the research team listed high cholesterol as one of the many conditions that could be treated by their CBD-rich strain.

When you purchase a high-quality CBD oil, you also increase the efficacy of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. A study* by Dr. Ivan Tancevski et al., published in Cell Metabolism in 2014, determined that Omega-6 fatty acids reduce LDL cholesterol levels.

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Reducing LDL Cholesterol

Although research into this issue is very much in its infancy, it is possible that CBD could ultimately assist with the symptoms of several cardiovascular conditions. Its effect on our endocannabinoid system (ECS) cannot be underestimated, and once researchers have greater license to explore the effects of CBD on the human body, they could make some very exciting discoveries.

One thing is for sure; the population of the United States as a whole is in danger of succumbing to heart problems due to high cholesterol levels, and our propensity to overuse statins doesn’t help. CBD oil is legal in almost every state, so if you want a possible medical benefit without the high, and don’t want to use statins, you can use it to treat your high cholesterol.

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