Changes in lipid composition associated with electronic cigarette use

J Transl Med. 2020 Oct 7;18(1):379. doi: 10.1186/s12967-020-02557-9.


Background: Electronic cigarette use is on the rise despite a number of reports linking electronic cigarettes with adverse health outcomes. Recent studies have suggested that alterations in lipid signaling may be one mechanism by which electronic cigarettes contribute to lung pulmonary function. Vitamin E acetate, for example, is synthetic form of Vitamin E transported via lipids, found to be associated with electronic cigarette associated lung injury. Lipids are absolutely critical for normal lung physiology and perturbations in a number of lipid pathways have been associated with respiratory illness. Is it conceivable that electronic cigarette use even in seemingly healthy cohorts are associated with alterations in lipid pathways?

Methods: To investigate quantitative alterations in the plasma lipidome associated with electronic cigarette use in healthy we obtained plasma samples from 119 male and female participants with who were either: (1) chronic tobacco cigarette (TC) smokers (> 12 months of self-reported TC use), (2) chronic Electronic cigarette (EC) users (> 12 months of self-reported EC use), or (3) non-users. We measured quantitative lipid species across different lipid sub-classes from plasma samples using the Sciex Lipidyzer.

Results: We found that male and female tobacco and electronic cigarette users had distinct lipidome signatures across a number of lipid species although the vast majority of lipids were unchanged when compared to non-users. Intriguingly, we found that female but not male electronic cigarette users had lower levels of plasmalogens, critical glycerophospholipids secreted by alveoli and required for normal surfactant function.

Conclusions: In summary, our study does not reveal striking changes associated with electronic cigarette use but we observed sex-specific changes in lipids known to be critical for lung function.

Keywords: Electronic cigarettes; Lipids; Tobacco.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipids
  • Male
  • Self Report
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Vaping* / adverse effects


  • Lipids