Endocannabinoids, endocannabinoid-like molecules and their precursors in human small intestinal lumen and plasma: does diet affect them?

Eur J Nutr. 2021 Jun;60(4):2203-2215. doi: 10.1007/s00394-020-02398-8. Epub 2020 Oct 26.


Purpose: To determine the small intestinal concentration of endocannabinoids (ECs), N-acylethanolamines (NAEs) and their precursors N-acylphosphatidylethanolamines (NAPEs) in humans. To identify relationships between those concentrations and habitual diet composition as well as individual inflammatory status.

Methods: An observational study was performed involving 35 participants with an ileostomy (18W/17M, aged 18-70 years, BMI 17-40 kg/m2). Overnight fasting samples of ileal fluid and plasma were collected and ECs, NAEs and NAPEs concentrations were determined by LC-HRMS. Dietary data were estimated from self-reported 4-day food diaries.

Results: Regarding ECs, N-arachidonoylethanolamide (AEA) was not detected in ileal fluids while 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) was identified in samples from two participants with a maximum concentration of 129.3 µg/mL. In contrast, mean plasma concentration of AEA was 2.1 ± 0.06 ng/mL and 2-AG was 4.9 ± 1.05 ng/mL. NAEs concentrations were in the range 0.72-17.6 µg/mL in ileal fluids and 0.014-0.039 µg/mL in plasma. NAPEs concentrations were in the range 0.3-71.5 µg/mL in ileal fluids and 0.19-1.24 µg/mL in plasma being more abundant in participants with obesity than normal weight and overweight. Significant correlations between the concentrations of AEA, OEA and LEA in biological fluids with habitual energy or fat intakes were identified. Plasma PEA positively correlated with serum C-reactive protein.

Conclusion: We quantified ECs, NAEs and NAPEs in the intestinal lumen. Fat and energy intake may influence plasma and intestinal concentrations of these compounds. The luminal concentrations reported would allow modulation of the homeostatic control of food intake via activation of GPR119 receptors located on the gastro-intestinal mucosa.

Clinical trial registry number and website: NCT04143139; www.clinicaltrials.gov .

Keywords: Gastrointestinal receptors; Ileal fluids; Ileostomists; Lipid mediators; N-acylethanolamines; Nutrient sensing.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Diet*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Ethanolamines
  • Humans
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled


  • Endocannabinoids
  • Ethanolamines
  • GPR119 protein, human
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04143139