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Cannabinoids may be responsible for omega-3 anti-inflammatory effect: Study

22 commentsBy Tim Cutcliffe , 20-Jul-2017
Last updated on 24-Jul-2017 at 18:21 GMT2017-07-24T18:21:01Z

© iStock/ stockdevil
© iStock/ stockdevil

The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids may be due to the action of endocannabinoids derived from them, suggests a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers from the University of Illinois, led by Professor Aditi Das, found that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are initially metabolised into endocannabinoids.

They also discovered that enzymes in the body then convert the endocannabinoids to their epoxide form. These endocannabinoid epoxides (EE), derived from DHA and EPA, may have even more powerful health giving properties.

"Our team discovered an enzymatic pathway that converts omega-3-derived endocannabinoids into more potent anti-inflammatory molecules," Das said. "This finding demonstrates how omega-3 fatty acids can produce some of the same medicinal qualities as marijuana, but without a psychotropic effect."

The term ‘endocannabinoids’ describes cannabinoids produced internally by the human body. They have similar anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties to externally derived cannabinoids such as those found in marijuana, but lack the hallucinatory effect.

The discovery of EE, a previously unknown class of compounds, is significant. EE appear to have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving and vasodilatory effects, which may be more potent than those of endocannabinoids themselves.

The researchers suggested that the study findings might have applications in pain-relief as well as prevention of heart disease, blood pressure and stroke.  

“These metabolites provide targets for the development of therapeutics in the ongoing search for non-addictive, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and vasodilatory molecules,” concluded Das.

Source:  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Published online.   DOI:  10.1073/pnas.1610325114
“Anti-inflammatory ω-3 endocannabinoid epoxides”
Authors:  Daniel R. McDougle, Aditi Das et al

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