A chemical compound in marijuana which lowers inflammation in the body is naturally produced from foods such as meat, eggs and fish, research suggests.
Cannabinoids have previously been reported as having the potential to help treat type 2 diabetes because it could treat inflammation, which is central to the development of insulin resistance.
Now research shows that the chemical reactions within foods containing omega-3 fatty acids result in the body naturally producing cannabinoids – but without the psychotropic high.
“Our team discovered an enzymatic pathway that converts omega-3-derived endocannabinoids into more potent anti-inflammatory molecules that predominantly bind to the receptors found in the immune system,” said lead author Aditi Das, University of Illinois.
“This finding demonstrates how omega-3 fatty acids can produce some of the same medicinal qualities as marijuana, but without a psychotropic effect.”
Das and colleagues made this discovery upon experimenting with animal tissue. They identified a set of reactions that led some cannabinoids binding to two receptors in the body. One receptor is in the nervous system; the other in the immune system.
“Some cannabinoids, such as THC in marijuana or endocannabinoids, can bind to these receptors and elicit anti-inflammatory and anti-pain action,” added Das.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods rich in healthy fats and are widely advocated for people with diabetes as part of low-carb diet. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids include nuts, avocado, fish, eggs and meat.
The study team believes the production of cannabinoids from omega-3 fatty acids could play a critical role in treating inflammation. But research is some way off being able to validate this link in humans.
But, the researchers added, “their identification may aid in the development of therapeutics for neuroinflammatory and cerebrovascular diseases”.
The findings appear online in the journal in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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