The Endocannabinoid System and Energy Metabolism

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Many different regulatory actions have been attributed to endocannabinoids, and their involvement in several pathophysiological conditions is under intense scrutiny. Cannabinoid receptors [cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and CB2] participate in the physiological modulation of many central and peripheral functions. The ability of the endocannabinoid system to control appetite, food intake and energy balance has recently received considerable attention, particularly in the light of the different modes of action underlying these functions. The endocannabinoid system modulates rewarding properties of food by acting at specific mesolimbic areas in the brain. In the hypothalamus, CB1 receptors and endocannabinoids are integrated components of the networks controlling appetite and food intake. Interestingly, the endocannabinoid system was recently shown to control several metabolic functions by acting on peripheral tissues such as adipocytes, hepatocytes, the gastrointestinal tract, the skeletal muscles and the endocrine pancreas. The relevance of the system is further strengthened by the notion that visceral obesity seems to be a condition in which an overactivation of the endocannabinoid system occurs, and therefore drugs interfering with this overactivation by blocking CB1 receptors are considered as potentially valuable candidates for the treatment of obesity and related cardiometabolic risk factors.

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