Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Smoking tobacco with a hookah may increase risk for blood clots, which can later cause heart attacks or stroke, a new study has found.
In research using mice, published Thursday journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, researchers say smoke from the traditional water pipe, can cause blood to function abnormally, clotting with an average of approximately 11 seconds, compared to an average of 5 minutes for clotting without exposure to hookah smoke.
The results highlight that hookah smoking may not be a safe alternative to cigarettes, the authors noted.
"Hookah smoking, which is becoming more popular in Western countries, is perceived as less harmful than cigarettes, yet hookahs carry a toxic profile that is thought to be comparable or to even exceed that of traditional cigarettes," Fadi Khasawneh, an associate professor and chair of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso, said in a statement. "Some studies have found that the smoke emitted from one hookah tobacco smoking episode contains significantly more harmful chemicals compared to a single cigarette."
Exposure to hookah smoke also causes other abnormalities related to the way the blood flows, the authors found.
A hookah is a water pipe that consists of a head, which holds the tobacco, a body, which is a chamber filled with water, a hose; and a mouthpiece. Charcoal briquettes "burn" the tobacco.
According to the American Heart Association, people who smoke using a hookah inhale significant levels of toxic chemicals such as carbon monoxide and particulates from tobacco that can harm blood vessels, the heart and lungs, as well as potentially creating a dependence on nicotine.
In this study, Khasawneh and colleagues exposed mice to hookah smoke from a smoking machine that mimicked real-life smoking habits. The machine used 12 grams of a commercially available flavored tobacco mixture that included tobacco, glycerin, molasses and nicotine and tar.
The study was designed to simulate the type of nicotine exposure that occurs when smoking a hookah, which researchers verified by measuring the levels of cotinine, the nicotine metabolite, in exposed mice.
Researchers then compared blood platelet activity among mice exposed to the smoke against those who were not exposed.
"From 2011 to 2015, the number of United States-based water-pipe establishments is estimated to have more than doubled, and interest has grown among both teens and adults," said Aruni Bhatnagar, chair of the Scientific Statement writing group. "Although the tobacco industry has found novel ways to popularize and increase the use of new products, studies like this highlight the high risk of hookah smoking. This study provides additional evidence that, contrary to popular belief, hookah smoking adversely affects cardiovascular health."