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Objective

To measure the circulating levels of endocannabinoids and related molecules at fasting, after acute hyperinsulinemia and after weight loss in insulin sensitive vs. insulin resistant obese postmenopausal women.

Design and Methods

The sample consisted of 30 obese postmenopausal women (age: 58.9 ± 5.2 yrs; BMI: 32.9 ± 3.6 kg/m2). Subjects underwent a 3-hour hyperinsulinaemic-euglycaemic clamp (HEC) (glucose disposal rate (M-value): 10.7 ± 3.3 mg min−1 kg−1 FFM) and 6-month weight loss intervention. Participants were classified as insulin sensitive obese (ISO) or insulin resistant obese (IRO) based on a predefined cutoff. Plasma levels of the endocannabinoids, anandamide (AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), and of the AEA-related compounds, palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) and oleoylethanolamide (OEA), were measured by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Results

IRO presented higher levels of 2-AG (P < 0.05) independently of the HEC and weight loss, whereas the HEC had an independent inhibitory effect on AEA, PEA, and OEA levels (P < 0.05) in both groups. Furthermore, there was an independent stimulatory effect of weight loss only on PEA levels in both groups (P < 0.05).

Conclusions

This study is the first to show that higher circulating levels of the endocannabinoid 2-AG are found in IRO compared to ISO postmenopausal women, and that weight loss is associated with an increase in PEA, a PPAR-α ligand.