A first of its kind study from researchers in the United Kingdom found vapers have “the same flourishing gut flora” as non-smokers, while smokers have increases in cancer-causing bacteria.
The research, published Tuesday in PeerJ journal, suggests vaping has only a minor effect on a user’s bodily health compared to combustible cigarettes, which remain the number one cause of preventable death globally. Researchers from Newcastle University analyzed samples from the digestive tracts of smokers, non-smokers and vapers, finding substantially reduced levels of positive bacteria in smokers.
Gut flora in vapers and non-smokers was virtually the same, while smokers suffered a depletion of Bacteroides — good bacteria referred to as a probiotic. Low levels of Bacteroides are tied to Crohn’s disease and obesity, according to the researchers. Smokers also experienced increases in Prevotella bacteria, which are thought to be linked to colon cancer and colitis.
“The bacterial cells in our body outnumber our own human cells, and our microbiome weighs more than our brain, yet we are only just beginning to understand its importance on our health,” Newcastle University’s Institute of Cellular Medicine Dr. and lead author of the study Christopher Stewart said in a statement. “More investigation is needed, but to find that vaping is less-damaging than smoking on our gut bacteria adds to the incentive to change to e-cigarettes and for people to use them as a tool to quit smoking completely.”
More research is needed into the topic, particularly on differences in gut flora between genders, but the scientists note clear differences between the overall digestive health of smokers and vapers, they said.
The study adds to an avalanche of evidence in both the U.S. and around the world proving e-cigarettes, while not entirely free of risks, drastically cut the physical harms combustible tobacco causes and significantly improves health outcomes for smokers. Roughly 95 percent of the carcinogens that cause tobacco-related illnesses are released through combustion, according to Public Health England. E-cigarettes simply heat liquid nicotine, creating an aerosol vapor.
Millions of former adult smokers in the U.S. are embracing the positive science on vaping and using the harm reduction tools to quit combustible cigarettes.
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