In a new study, researchers found that the appealing array of fruit and candy flavors that entice millions of people take up vaping can harm their hearts.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of South Florida Health.
Many studies have found that the nicotine and other chemicals delivered by vaping, while generally less toxic than conventional cigarettes, can damage the lungs and heart.
But so far there has been no clear understanding about what happens when the vaporized flavoring molecules in flavored vaping products, after being inhaled, enter the bloodstream and reach the heart.
In the study, the team did a series of experiments assessing the toxicity of vape flavorings in cardiac cells.
Vaping involves inhaling an aerosol created by heating an e-liquid containing nicotine, solvents such as propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, and flavorings.
The vaping device’s battery-powered heat converts this e-liquid into a smoke-like aerosolized mixture (e-vapor).
Manufacturers tout e-cigarettes as a tool to help quit smoking, but evidence of their effectiveness for smoking cessation is limited, and they are not FDA approved for this use.
E-cigarettes contain the same highly addictive nicotine found in tobacco products, yet many teens and young adults assume they are safe.
The team examined three popular flavors of e-liquid: fruit flavor, cinnamon, and vanilla custard.
Cardiac cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells were exposed to three distinct e-vapors.
The first e-vapor containing the only solvent interfered with the electrical activity and beating rate of cardiac cells in the dish.
A second e-vapor with nicotine added to the solvent increased the toxic effects on these cells.
The third e-vapor comprised of nicotine, solvent, and vanilla custard flavoring (the flavor previously identified as most toxic) augmented damage to the spontaneously beating cells even more.
The findings show that the flavoring chemicals added to vaping devices can increase harm beyond what the nicotine alone can do.
In addition, vaping could disrupt the autonomic nervous system’s control of heart rate (the acceleration and slowing down of heartbeats).
Finally, mice exposed to vaping were more prone to abnormal and dangerous heart rhythm disturbance.
The team says more preclinical and human studies are needed to further determine the safety of flavored e-vapors and their long-term health effects.
One author of the study is Sami Noujaim, Ph.D., an associate professor of molecular pharmacology and physiology.
The study is published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.
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