Among many other things, cannabis affects some key functions related to the cardiovascular system. Specifically, cannabis is commonly considered a “vasodilator.” That means it helps open up your blood vessels. In most cases, this makes it easier for blood to flow and subsequently leads to things like a temporarily lower blood rate, decreased blood pressure for those who have glaucoma or other health conditions, and more.
But in some cases, cannabis actually places stress on the body’s cardiovascular system. Similarly, cannabis has been linked to an increased risk for certain types of cardiovascular disease.
But now, new research has found that a chemical compound in soybeans could counteract these potentially negative side effects of marijuana.
Soybeans Could Prevent Damage from Marijuana
The new research was presented recently at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2019 Scientific Sessions. According to researchers working on the project, the objective was to discover ways to make cannabis consumption—especially medical marijuana—more effective and safer.
“These medications are prescribed to reduce the nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy and to increase appetite in certain people with acquired immune deficiency syndrome,” research Tzu-Tang “Thomas” Wei said in a press release. “The goal of our studies is to investigate the mechanisms of marijuana-induced damage and discover new drugs to prevent those side effects.”
Specifically, cannabis has been linked to some cardiovascular diseases. For example, some past studies have pointed to potential links between marijuana and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Researchers on this new project wanted to see if there is a way to avoid these risks. And it turns out soybeans could be the solution.
In this study, researchers exposed endothelial cells, which are very similar to the cells inside blood vessels, to THC. They then exposed those same cells to an antioxidant found in soybeans called JW-1.
Here’s what they found:
- When the cells were exposed to THC they showed signs of inflammation and oxidative stress. Importantly, both of these are linked to the development of heart disease.
- JW-1 blocked access to certain cannabinoid receptors.
- As a result of this, JW-1 helped eliminate some of the potentially negative effects of THC in exposed cells.
Implications of New Data
These findings could have important implications for medical marijuana patients. But they could also be very helpful in applications beyond the specific context of medical marijuana.
Specifically, researchers believe that there could be other health benefits from learning how to block and manipulate certain parts of the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Interestingly, this new study is not the first time researchers have tried to block cannabinoid receptors for health reasons. But so far, such attempts have fallen short.
“Previously, a drug that blocked CB1 was approved in Europe for the treatment of obesity,” Wei said. “But it had to be withdrawn because of severe psychiatric side effects.”
He continued: “In contrast, as an antioxidant, JW-1 may have neuroprotective effects. Discovering a new way to protect blood vessels without psychiatric side effects would be clinically important with the rapid growth of cannabis use worldwide.”
Next up, researchers involved with this project said they plan to test cells from real-life cannabis smokers. Additionally, they want to examine cells from folks who smoke both marijuana and cigarettes. And finally, they also want to see how THC impacts blood vessels in combination with other cannabinoids like CBD.