Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are lipid derivatives of omega-3 (docosahexaenoic acid, DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA) or of omega-6 (arachidonic acid, ARA) synthesized from membrane phospholipids and used as a precursor for endocannabinoids (ECs). They mediate significant effects in the fine-tune adjustment of body homeostasis. Phyto- and synthetic cannabinoids also rule the daily life of billions worldwide, as they are involved in obesity, depression and drug addiction. Consequently, there is growing interest to reveal novel active compounds in this field. Cloning of cannabinoid receptors in the 90s and the identification of the endogenous mediators arachidonylethanolamide (anandamide, AEA) and 2-arachidonyglycerol (2-AG), led to the characterization of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), together with their metabolizing enzymes and membrane transporters. Today, the ECS is known to be involved in diverse functions such as appetite control, food intake, energy balance, neuroprotection, neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, mood disorders, emesis, modulation of pain, inflammatory responses, as well as in cancer therapy. Western diet as well as restriction of micronutrients and fatty acids, such as DHA, could be related to altered production of pro-inflammatory mediators (e.g. eicosanoids) and ECs, contributing to the progression of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, depression or impairing conditions, such as Alzheimer' s disease. Here we review how diets based in PUFAs might be linked to ECS and to the maintenance of central and peripheral metabolism, brain plasticity, memory and learning, blood flow, and genesis of neural cells.
Keywords: 2-AG; AEA; Arachidonic acid; Endocannabinoid system; Inflammation; Metabolism; PUFAs; Western diet.