Food and Behaviour Research

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Gastrointestinal regulation of food intake: general aspects and focus on anandamide and oleoylethanolamide

Capasso R, Izzo AA. (2008) J Neuroendocrinol.  20 Suppl 1: 39-46. 

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The gastrointestinal tract plays a pivotal role in the regulation of food intake and energy balance. Signals from the gastrointestinal tract generally function to limit ingestion in the interest of efficient digestion. These signals may be released into the bloodstream or may activate afferent neurones that carry information to the brain and its cognitive centres, which regulates food intake. The rate at which nutrients become systemically available is also influenced by gastrointestinal motility: a delay in gastric emptying may evoke a satiety effect.

Recent evidence suggests that the endocannabinoid anandamide and the related acylethanolamide oleoylethanolamide are produced in the intestine and might regulate feeding behaviour by engaging sensory afferent neurones that converge information to specific areas of the brain.

The intestinal levels of these acylethanolamides are inversely correlated to feeding, as food deprivation increases intestinal levels of anandamide (which acts in the gut as a 'hunger signal'), while it decreases the levels of oleoylethanolamide (which acts in the gut as a 'satiety signal').

Additionally, these acylethanolamides, whose gastric levels change in response to diet-induced obesity, alter gastrointestinal motility, which might contribute to their effect on food intake and nutrient absorption.