Vaping is now being linked to a higher risk of prediabetes

Research confirms what experts have been suggesting all along — that it's not just your lungs at stake when you vape.

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Up in Smoke

When vaping surfaced as a supposedly safer alternative to smoking, I tried it. Unsurprisingly, vaping felt hard on my body. Health officials have been warning us for years now what anyone who’s tried an e-cig suspects — vaping can be dangerous for your health, but vape ads have continued to insist that they are safe. Most of the warnings we’ve heard concern lung health, but it turns out that vaping can impact more than just the respiratory system. Now a new study suggests that vaping could increase your risk of developing prediabetes.

Because e-cigarettes are pretty new — scientifically speaking — and it takes years to conduct clinical trials, we are only now starting to see significant research on the health impact of vaping. This new study, which was published yesterday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, observed 600,406 participants from 2016-2018. What researchers found was that 9% of participants — 54,036 — who smoked e-cigs reported prediabetes diagnoses.

The huge sample size and age diversity — 35% of the participants were over 35 and the rest were aged 18-24 — make the findings extremely compelling, and scientists who were part of the study say it has far-reaching implications. “We were surprised by the findings associating prediabetes with e-cigarettes because they are touted as a safer alternative, which we now know is not the case,” Shyam Biswal, a professor of Environmental Health and Engineering at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead investigator of the study, told EurekAlert. In other words, this research can help scientists refute vape companies’ claims that e-cigarettes are safer than combustible cigarettes.

Not only does this study suggest that people who vape are at higher risk of developing prediabetes, but evidence collected by the study also suggests that people who vape tend to have more high-risk lifestyle factors and report lower mental and physical health statuses than non-smokers. To be clear, that’s in comparison to people who don’t smoke anything at all. Tobacco cigarettes are still terrible for you.

This study is important because health experts have long suspected that vaping could have deleterious effects on blood sugar, but there hasn’t been enough long-term, peer-reviewed research to back up their suspicions. And don’t let the “pre” in prediabetes fool you, either. I know it sounds like a health condition that could go either way, but that’s only true if people diagnosed with prediabetes make significant lifestyle changes.

According to recent research, more than 70% of people diagnosed with prediabetes will develop prediabetes. Unfortunately, prediabetes is not rare in America, so none of us need any more risk factors. Here’s to hoping that research like this will help us all make more informed lifestyle decisions instead of trying to suss out the truth in misleading vape advertising.