E-cigarettes Not A Safer Smoking Option With Diabetes: Two Studies

Smoking is a proven health hazard for everyone, but it is an especially dangerous habit for those with diabetes.

Research shows that smokers with diabetes have higher blood sugar levels, making glucose control more difficult, and it puts them at increased risk for diabetes complications such as nerve damage, blindness, heart problems, and kidney failure.

E-Cigarette Option

Because of the serious health issues associated with cigarettes, many smokers have turned to e-cigarettes as a safer alternative. Using an e-cigarette is commonly called vaping, and the perception that vaping is safe has triggered an increased use of e-cigarettes not only with adults, but in middle and high schools.

E-cigarettes use batteries to heat a liquid that typically contains nicotine and other substances (e.g., flavorings, additives). Heat transforms the liquid into a vapor, or aerosol that can be inhaled. Users get the same nicotine effect as they would smoking a traditional cigarette, but without the long list of chemicals usually found in tobacco products—though some of the flavorings and additives in e-cigarettes have been found toxic.

It’s The Nicotine

The major health concern for e-cigarette users who have diabetes is not chemical additives though, but the nicotine that most e-cigarettes contain.

A 2011 study done by Xiao-Chuan Liu at the California State Polytechnic University showed that when nicotine is added to human blood samples, the blood’s hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) goes up as much as 34 percent. Hemoglobin A1c, as many diabetics know, is a standard indicator of blood sugar levels in the body.

Though physicians have long known that smoking can worsen diabetes, Liu’s study gives them the reason why. “It’s the nicotine,” said Liu. “This study also implies that if you are a smoker, and not diabetic, that your chances of developing [type 2] diabetes is higher.” The research further suggests that nicotine replacement products, such as e-cigarettes or patches, are not good smoking cessation tools for people with diabetes.

Heart Health

Unfortunately, it’s not just blood sugar that may be affected by e-cigarettes, but also the integrity of the cardiovascular system. This is concerning for people with diabetes since they are already at increased risk for heart disease.

Recently, researchers discovered that an increase in endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) occurs within the first hour of using one e-cigarette. Elevated EPCs signify damage to the inner lining of our blood vessels. It took 24 hours for the EPC levels to return to normal following the e-cigarette use. An EPC increase of the same scale also occurs after smoking a traditional cigarette.

“It really surprises me that so little vapor from an e-cigarette is needed to start the heart disease ball rolling,” said Dr. Joep Perk, a European Society of Cardiology spokesperson. “It’s worrying that one e-cigarette can trigger such a response.”

Fresh Air

While it takes far more than the results of two studies to declare that vaping is a diabetes health hazard, these research outcomes suggest the only thing people with, or at risk for diabetes should inhale is fresh air. Clean air is what our lungs were designed for, and it seems likely that anything else will become a nasty irritant.

“In order to minimize your chances of developing diabetes or diabetic complications, you need to quit smoking,” says Liu, reinforcing what we already know is true.

Sources: Mercola; Time; Mayo Clinic

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