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Clin Cornerstone. 2005;7(2-3):17-26.

The endocannabinoid system: a new approach to control cardiovascular disease.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School, Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


The endocannabinoid (EC) system consists of 2 types of G-protein-coupled cannabinoid receptors--cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid type 2 (CB2)--and their natural ligands. The EC system plays a key role in the regulation of food intake and fat accumulation, as well as glucose and lipid metabolism. When overactivated, the EC system triggers dyslipidemia, thrombotic and inflammatory states, and insulin resistance. Blocking CB1 receptors centrally and peripherally in adipose tissue can help normalize an overactivated EC system. CB1 blockade helps regulate food intake and adipose tissue metabolism, contributing to improved insulin sensitivity and other features of the metabolic syndrome. Visceral adipose tissue is most closely associated with the metabolic syndrome, which is a constellation of conditions that place people at high risk for coronary artery disease. Targeting the EC system represents a new approach to treating visceral obesity and reducing cardiovascular risk factors.

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