So far, the available research on cannabis and cholesterol is mixed. Here’s what we know and when to consult a healthcare professional.

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The research on cannabis and cholesterol is sparse and mixed. Some studies suggest cannabis use could be a risk factor for developing high cholesterol, while others suggest it isn’t.

Simply put, there’s so little research on cannabis and cholesterol that experts don’t yet know whether cannabis is beneficial — or even safe — for people with high cholesterol.

Cannabis affects the endocannabinoid system. An invisible network that regulates many of your bodily functions. All humans have an endocannabinoid system, whether they use cannabis or not.

The CB1 receptor is a part of the endocannabinoid system. Among other functions, the CB1 receptor regulates reverse cholesterol transport (RCT). RCT is a process when your body regulates your cholesterol levels, removing excess cholesterol and transporting it to the liver.

A 2020 study examined RCT in 19 chronic cannabis users and 20 nonusers. The study suggested that chronic cannabis use could compromise RCT, leading to high cholesterol levels.

A 2013 study looked at 30 cannabis smokers and 30 nonusers. Researchers found that the cannabis smokers had lower plasma HDL (”good”) cholesterol but similar LDL (”bad”) cholesterol than the control group. High LDL cholesterol is associated with negative health outcomes.

This research has limitations: Both studies were small, and there aren’t enough studies to a conclusion. In other words, there’s too little research to verify whether cannabis is good for cholesterol levels or not.

Similarly, there isn’t a lot of research on CBD and cholesterol.

A 2019 study looked at the effects of CBD on mice. The mice in the study had liver inflammation induced by a high fat, high cholesterol diet. The study showed that CBD alleviated liver inflammation caused by the high fat, high cholesterol diet.

However, this doesn’t mean that it reduced the mice’s overall cholesterol levels. Also, experts need to replicate this study with human participants.

More recently, a 2020 clinical trial looked at the effects of CBD-rich hemp oil on 65 people with overweight.

Researchers found that participants who took 15 milligrams of CBD per day had improved HDL cholesterol, while the control group did not experience any improvement. Those who took CBD also reported better sleep and better stress resilience.

While these results are interesting, it’s worth noting that the subjects didn’t have high cholesterol in the first place — so CBD didn’t reverse high cholesterol, but it may protect against its development. With only 65 people, it was a relatively small trial.

There’s not enough research to tell whether cannabis or CBD can increase or reduce your risk of developing cholesterol health conditions.

While it’s not as common as high cholesterol, low cholesterol can be a concern for some individuals. However, there’s no evidence that cannabis or CBD can lower your cholesterol to dangerous levels.

Is cannabis safe for people with high cholesterol? The available research can’t definitively answer that question yet.

If you have high cholesterol levels, it’s a good idea to regularly check in with your clinician, whether you use cannabis or not.

It’s also advisable to practice healthy habits to manage your cholesterol, which can include:

If you use cannabis regularly and a clinician assists you in treating a chronic condition — including high cholesterol — it’s important to inform your clinician.

Since cannabis is still stigmatized, many people feel uncomfortable talking about cannabis with their doctors and other healthcare professionals.

However, it’s generally a good idea to tell your clinician if you use cannabis. A healthcare professional can identify whether cannabis is safe to use alongside your medication, as well as mention any uncomfortable side effects that cannabis use may cause.

Healthcare professionals aren’t obligated to report illegal cannabis use to the authorities — in fact, doctor-patient confidentiality covers it — but if you’re concerned about stigma and potential legal repercussions, ask them about their position on cannabis first.

You could say, for example:

  • “What is your position on medical cannabis?”
  • “Do you have any experience treating people who also use cannabis?”
  • “I’m interested in using cannabis for [condition/symptom]. Could you advise me on this?”

If your doctor is open to discussing cannabis with you, try to be transparent with them about your cannabis use.

This includes covering:

  • Why you use cannabis: Is it for recreational or medical reasons? If you use cannabis for health, what conditions or symptoms are you hoping to treat?
  • How cannabis affects you: Do you experience benefits? Any side effects?
  • How you consume cannabis: Do you smoke, vape, use cannabis edibles, or use something else? How often do you use it?

If your healthcare professional isn’t comfortable discussing cannabis use, they might refer you to a cannabis-friendly professional.

There isn’t enough research on whether cannabis or CBD could lower or increase cholesterol. So far, the available research is fairly mixed.

If you use cannabis and have a chronic condition, like high cholesterol, it’s advisable to inform your care team about your cannabis use.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.