The Endocannabinoid System: A New Target for the Regulation of Energy Balance and Metabolism

Crit Pathw Cardiol. 2007 Jun;6(2):46-50. doi: 10.1097/HPC.0b013e318057d4b4.


Recent studies have provided evidence that the endocannabinoid (EC) system has very significant effects on energy balance and metabolism through the central control of appetite and by affecting peripheral metabolism. Endocannabinoids are endogenous phospholipid derivatives which bind and activate cannabinoid receptors type 1 and type 2 (CB1 and CB2 receptors). The CB1 receptor, a G-protein coupled receptor, is believed to be responsible for the majority of the central effects of endocannaboids on appetite. Chronic positive energy balance and obesity have been associated with an overactivation of the endocannaboid system which has been suggested to contribute to the development of abdominal obesity and to associated metabolic abnormalities which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Animal studies had shown that stimulation of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor with endocannaboids such as anandamide could induce first an increase in food intake leading to body weight gain. Furthermore, an exciting development in this field has been the discovery of CB1 receptors in many peripheral tissues, including key organs involved in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism such as the adipose tissue and liver. Thus, blocking CB1 receptors located in the liver and adipose tissue could have an additional impact on the metabolic risk profile beyond what could be explained by the reduction in food intake and the related body weight loss. Preclinical studies have shown that rimonabant, the first CB1-receptor blocker to be available in clinical practice, could not only induce a reduction in food intake, but could also produce body weight loss beyond what could be explained by its effect on food intake. Thus, the evidence from preclinical studies have suggested that CB1 blockade could represent a relevant approach to reduce food intake, to induce body weight loss, and, most importantly, to "fix" the dysmetabolic state of viscerally obese patients at increased cardiometabolic risk.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adiponectin / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / drug effects*
  • Arachidonic Acids / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism*
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism / drug effects
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism / physiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Piperidines / pharmacology*
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / pharmacology
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / agonists
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Rimonabant


  • Adiponectin
  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Piperidines
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Pyrazoles
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Dronabinol
  • Rimonabant
  • anandamide