An introduction to the Endocannabinoid System and its potential role in weight-loss

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Peter Grinspoon, MD, has a nice piece over at the Harvard Health blog explaining the basics of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) with an example of how it could be applied to hunger & obesity – a crucial topic as the above video demonstrates.

Understanding the ECS also helps overcome the criticism that cannabis medicine promises too much – How can one plant possibly do so many things? The answer, as Grinspoon explains, is that:

. . . the ECS is critical for almost every aspect of our moment-to-moment functioning. The ECS regulates and controls many of our most critical bodily functions such as learning and memory, emotional processing, sleep, temperature control, pain control, inflammatory and immune responses, and eating.

The ECS comprises a vast network of chemical signals and cellular receptors that are densely packed throughout our brains and bodies. … turning up or down the activity of whichever system needs to be adjusted, whether that is hunger, temperature, or alertness.

Take the case of the anti-obesity drug rimonabant which proved successful in promoting weight loss. Problem was, the people taking it were becoming suicidal – because the drug acted on an ECS receptor that affected both weight loss and mood.

But now with the increasing legalization of cannabis and the opening up of research, Grinspoon predicts a bright future for this area of medicine:

. . . we can imagine a case, as we better understand the complexities of the ECS, where we may be able to create a weight-loss medication that acts on those cannabinoid receptors that affect weight loss, but that doesn’t act on those receptors that control mood. . . .

We are truly at the dawn of an age of discovery of the ECS and the development of new medicines that may help alleviate some of the cruelest diseases that people (and animals) suffer from.

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