Endocannabinoid system and its role in energy regulation

Expert Rev Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Jul;1(4):557-569. doi: 10.1586/17446651.1.4.557.


Endocannabinoids are endogenous agonists for the two types of cannabinoid receptors identified to date, the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors and tissue concentrations of endocannabinoids sufficient to activate them are present in the brain structures controlling energy intake (i.e., the hypothalamus, nucleus accumbens and nodose ganglion), as well as in all peripheral organs mostly involved in the regulation of energy homeostasis (i.e., the duodenum, small and large intestine, adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, pancreas and liver). Several peripheral neuropeptides and hormones involved in energy balance, and type of diet, regulate endocannabinoid levels, whereas endocannabinoids, in turn, regulate the expression and release of hypothalamic mediators involved in nutrient intake. Dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system might contribute to the development of eating disorders and explain why CB1 receptor blockers are efficacious at reducing not only food intake but also the metabolic consequences of visceral adiposity and obesity.

Keywords: 2-arachidonoylglycerol; CB1 receptors; anandamide; appetite; diet; enzymes; rimonabant.