Obesity and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

January 12, 2016

There is a large connection between obesity and the ECS. The ECS is a homeostatic regulator of inflammation and influences many systems in the human body. The (ECS) is one of the signalling systems in the body that controls feeding behavior. To learn more on the ECS click this underlined text.


Obesity has high comorbidity, meaning it often is associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc.. Obesity can be considered a visual cue that there are underlying health issues. Much in the same way we can recognize health issues in a dog through the sheen on their coat, we can recognize obesity as a symptom of underlying health issues.


Endocannabinoids are necessary, but too much can lead to dysregulation of the ECS via too high an intake of omega 6 fatty acid AA (arachidonic acid). We need increased omega 3 DHA/EPA to displace omega 6 AA. Ideally, one wants to strive for a 3 to 1ratio of omega 6 to omega 3, in general.


Central administration of either AEA (anandamide) or 2-AG (AEA & 2-AG are endocannabinoids) in rats has been found to potently stimulate appetite and promote body weight gain that can lead to obesity. 2-AG is a metabolite of AA (arachidonic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid). The major food sources of AA are chicken and eggs. Beef also contains AA, but comes in much lower in AA content than chicken.




Adding AA to culture media causes prostate cancer cells to grow twice as fast. AA turns on a dozen inflammatory genes that are known to be influential in the onset of cancer.


However, AA helps to keep cell membranes healthy and permeable, leading to stable nutrient supply in the brain and other parts of the body. Also, AA is essential in the synthesis of protein and regeneration processes in muscles after a gym workout. Above all, AA's main function is maintenance of healthy cell membranes.


So, we can see that AA has benefits and drawbacks. The takeaway here is much like everything else in regards to the ECS, it is balance. Do not over ingest anything. Moderation with the right kinds of foods while being aware of the omega 3 to 6 balance is key.


Increased AA (omega 6) results in increased metabolites of AEA and 2-AG, which are shown to increase obesity symptoms. Since EPA/DHA (omega 3) compete for the same enzyme to breakdown, we can help mitigate the increased storage in cells of AA by increasing DHA/EPA intake. However, always consult with your doctor on changes to your diet.


Interestingly, in pre-clinical studies, THCV (cannabinoid found in cannabis) has been shown to have effects on body weight, body fat content, energy expenditure, food intake, and other obesity-related parameters.

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