Context: The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is involved in the regulation of food intake and of peripheral metabolism. Although the cross talk between energy metabolism and the circadian system is well documented, little is known about a potential circadian modulation of human eCB activity.
Objective: The objective of the study was to define the 24-hour profile of circulating levels of the most abundant endogenous ligand of the CB1 receptor, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), in healthy young nonobese adults studied under controlled bedtime, dietary, and activity conditions.
Methods: Fourteen subjects participated in this 4-day laboratory study with fixed light-dark cycles, standardized meals, and bedtimes. Sleep was recorded each night. On the third day, blood sampling at 15- to 30-minute intervals began at 9:30 pm and continued for 24 hours. Cortisol, leptin, and ghrelin were assayed on all samples, whereas the levels of 2-AG and its structural analog, 2-oleoylglycerol (2-OG), were measured at 60-minute intervals.
Results: All participants exhibited a large circadian variation of 2-AG serum concentrations with a nadir around midsleep, coincident with the middle of the overnight fast. Levels of 2-AG increased continually across the morning, peaking in the early to midafternoon. Peak values represented, on average, a nearly 3-fold increase above nocturnal nadir levels. Concentrations of 2-OG followed a similar pattern, although with a shorter morning increase and lower amplitude.
Conclusions: The findings demonstrate that activity of the eCB system is profoundly modulated by circadian rhythmicity and suggest that its impact on the regulation of food intake is suppressed during sleep and is maximal during early to midafternoon.