New vistas for treatment of obesity and diabetes? Endocannabinoid signalling and metabolism in the modulation of energy balance

Bioessays. 2012 Aug;34(8):681-91. doi: 10.1002/bies.201200031. Epub 2012 Jun 5.


Growing evidence suggests that pathological overactivation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is associated with dyslipidemia, obesity and diabetes. Indeed, this signalling system acting through cannabinoid receptors has been shown to function both centrally and peripherally to regulate feeding behaviour as well as energy expenditure and metabolism. Consequently, modulation of these receptors can promote significant alterations in body weight and associated metabolic profile. Importantly, blocking cannabinoid receptor type 1 function has been found to prevent obesity and metabolic dysfunction in various murine models and in humans. Here we provide a detailed account of the known physiological role of the ECS in energy balance, and explore how recent studies have delivered novel insights into the potential targeting of this system as a therapeutic means for treating obesity and related metabolic disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / pharmacology
  • Body Weight
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / pharmacology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / metabolism
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • GPR55 protein, human
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • anandamide