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Central and peripheral endocannabinoids and cognate acylethanolamides in humans: association with race, adiposity, and energy expenditure.



Peripheral and central endocannabinoids and cognate acylethanolamides (AEs) may play important but distinct roles in regulating energy balance.


We hypothesized that in humans central/peripheral endocannabinoids are differently associated with adiposity and energy expenditure and differ by race.


We examined associations of arachindonoylethanolamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, palmitoylethanolamide, and oleoylethanolamide (OEA) assayed in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) with race, adiposity, and energy expenditure.


In this monitored clinical inpatient study, CSF was obtained by lumbar puncture in 27 individuals (12 Caucasian, 11 American Indian, and four African-American). Twenty-four hour and sleep energy expenditure were measured by indirect calorimetry in a respiratory chamber.

Main outcome measure

Samples were analyzed from a previous study originally designed to test a blood-brain barrier leptin transport deficit in human obesity.


CSF (but not peripheral) 2-arachidonoylglycerol was significantly increased in American Indians compared with Caucasians (18.48 ± 6.17 vs. 10.62 ± 4.58 pmol/ml, P < 0.01). In the whole group, peripheral AEs were positively but in CSF negatively associated with adiposity. However, in multivariate models adjusted for the other peripheral and CSF AEs, peripheral arachindonoylethanolamide was the only AE significantly associated with adiposity. Interestingly, CSF OEA concentrations were positively associated with adjusted 24 hour and sleep energy expenditure (r = 0.47, P < 0.05; r = 0.42, P < 0.05), but peripheral OEA was not.


These data indicate a central alteration of the endocannabinoid system in American Indians and furthermore show that AEs in both compartments play an important but distinct role in human energy balance regulation.

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