The thrifty lipids: endocannabinoids and the neural control of energy conservation

Trends Neurosci. 2012 Jul;35(7):403-11. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2012.04.006. Epub 2012 May 22.


The 'thrifty gene hypothesis' posits that evolution preferentially selects physiological mechanisms that optimize energy storage to increase survival under alternating conditions of abundance and scarcity of food. Recent experiments suggest that endocannabinoids - a class of lipid-derived mediators that activate cannabinoid receptors in many cells of the body - are key agents of energy conservation. The new evidence indicates that these compounds increase energy intake and decrease energy expenditure by controlling the activity of peripheral and central neural pathways involved in the sensing and hedonic processing of sweet and fatty foods, as well as in the storage of their energy content for future use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / physiology*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lipids*


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Lipids