JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Peripheral metabolic effects of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptor blockade

Stefan Engeli
Obesity Facts 2008, 1 (1): 8-15
20054157
The endocannabinoid system consists of endogenous arachidonic acid derivates that activate cannabinoid receptors. The two most prominent endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol. In obesity, increased concentrations of circulating and tissue endocannabinoid levels have been described, suggesting increased activity of the endocannabinoid system. Increased availability of endocannabinoids in obesity may over-stimulate cannabinoid receptors. Blockade of cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors was the only successful clinical development of an anti-obesity drug during the last decade. Whereas blockade of CB1 receptors acutely reduces food intake, the long-term effects on metabolic regulation are more likely mediated by peripheral actions in liver, skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, and the pancreas. Lipogenic effects of CB1 receptor signalling in liver and adipose tissue may contribute to regional adipose tissue expansion and insulin resistance in the fatty liver. The association of circulating 2-arachidonoyl glycerol levels with decreased insulin sensitivity strongly suggests further exploration of the role of endocannabinoid signalling for insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle, liver, and adipose tissue. A few studies have suggested a specific role for the regulation of adiponectin secretion from adipocytes by endocannabinoids, but that has to be confirmed by more experiments. Also, the potential role of CB1 receptor blockade for the stimulation of energy expenditure needs to be studied in the future. Despite the current discussion of safety issues of cannabinoid receptor blockade, these findings open a new and exciting perspective on endocannabinoids as regulators of body weight and metabolism.

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