Study Claims Non-Nicotine Vaping Disrupts Gut

A recent study claims that the chemicals found in vapor products without nicotine disrupt the gut barrier and trigger inflammation in the body, potentially leading to a variety of seperate health concerns.

upset lady holding tummy
Credit: Priscilla du Preez


In the study, published in the journal iScience, lead authors Soumita Das, associate professor of pathology, and Pradipta Ghosh, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center at UCSD School of Medicine, found that chronic use of nicotine-free e-cigarettes led to a “leaky gut,” in which microbes and other molecules seep out of the intestines, resulting in chronic inflammation.

Such inflammation can contribute to a variety of diseases and conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, dementia, certain cancers, atherosclerosis, liver fibrosis, diabetes, and arthritis, according to a press release.

“The gut lining is an amazing entity. It is comprised of a single layer of cells that are meant to seal the body from the trillions of microbes, defend our immune system, and at the same time allow absorption of essential nutrients,” said Ghosh. “Anything we eat or drink, our lifestyle choices in other words, has the ability to impact our gut microbes, the gut barrier and overall health. Now we know that what we smoke, such as e-cigarettes, negatively impacts it as well.”

The researchers say that two chemicals used as a base for all most e-liquids — propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin — were the cause of inflammation. Both chemicals are used in many food products that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated are safe for human consumption.

“Numerous chemicals are created when these two are heated to generate the fumes in vaping that cause the most damage, for which there are no current regulations,” said Ghosh. “The safety of e-cigarettes have been debated fiercely on both sides. Nicotine content, and its addictive nature, has always been the major focus of those who argue against its safety, whereas lack of chemicals in the carcinogens that are present in the cigarette smoke has been touted by the makers of e-cigarettes when marketing these products as a ‘healthy alternative.’ In reality, it’s the chemicals making up the vapor-liquid that we should be more concerned about as they are the cause of gut inflammation.”