Role of the endocannabinoid system in energy balance regulation and obesity

Front Horm Res. 2008;36:135-145. doi: 10.1159/000115362.


The endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) is a neuromodulatory system recently recognized to have a role in the regulation of various aspects of eating behavior and energy balance through central and peripheral mechanisms. In the central nervous system, cannabinoid type 1 receptors and their endogenous ligands, the endocannabinoids, are involved in modulating food intake and motivation to consume palatable food. Moreover, the ECS is present in peripheral organs, such as liver, white adipose tissue, muscle, and pancreas, where it seems to be involved in the regulation of lipid and glucose homeostasis. Dysregulation of the ECS has been associated with the development of obesity and its sequelae, such as dyslipidemia and diabetes. Conversely, recent clinical trials have shown that cannabinoid type 1 receptor blockade may ameliorate these metabolic abnormalities. Although further investigation is needed to better define the actual mechanisms of action, pharmacologic approaches targeting the ECS may provide a novel, effective option for the management of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / physiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
  • Eating
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Energy Metabolism* / drug effects
  • Energy Metabolism* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Piperidines / therapeutic use
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / agonists
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / physiology
  • Reward
  • Rimonabant


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2
  • Rimonabant