What Are Lipids & What Are Their Roles in the Endocannabinoid System?
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
Lipids are molecules that are naturally occurring. The body uses them for numerous functions.
The endocannabinoid system uses lipids to create endocannabinoids, molecules that interact with the endocannabinoid system receptors.
Taking fatty15 can help your body make PDC, the second-ever discovered, fully-acting endocannabinoid.
The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a system of checks and balances that help it maintain homeostatic function. With a better understanding of the underlying biochemistry of this system, we can help support our well-being and reduce our risk of developing age-related conditions like heart disease, obesity, unhealthy blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
The ECS relies on lipids to create molecules that help it function. We’ll talk about lipids, how the ECS uses them, and a newly discovered fatty acid essential for creating the second-ever discovered, fully-acting endocannabinoid.
What Are Lipids?
Lipids are molecules that contain hydrocarbons — they make up a large part of living cells. They are naturally occurring and usually bond together to form hydrocarbon chains. These chains are sometimes called fatty acids.
Different Types of Lipids
There are several different types of lipids. Fats, oils, waxes, some vitamins, hormones, and portions of the cell membranes are all types of lipids. When we classify lipids, there are three main types.
You’re probably familiar with triglycerides because your doctor measures triglyceride levels in your blood each time your cholesterol levels are checked.
Your cholesterol reading is usually broken down into four parts:
- LDL (low-density lipoproteincholesterol)
- HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol)
- VLDL (very low-density lipoproteincholesterol)
Triglycerides, sometimes called triacylglycerols, are found in fatty foods, vegetable oils, olive oil, and trans fats. We classically refer to them as “fats,” which means they are solid at room temperature and liquid when heated. Triglycerides are also a type of fatty acidderivative.
Excess calories in our food are converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells. Triglycerides do, however, play an important role in your health, as we will discuss below.
These are water-soluble lipids and comprise important parts of cell structure, like the cell membrane. Cell membranes are made up of these lipids and proteins. These lipids have hydrophobic ends and hydrophilic ends, making them particularly good at forming barriers.
The least common type of lipid is sterols, and cholesterol is the most well-known one. Although cholesterol is almost synonymous with poor health, it’s a vital component of our bodies.
Cholesterol helps make steroid hormones like estrogen, cortisol, and testosterone and helps us synthesize vitamin D. It’s also important for liver function and helps create the bile acids that help us properly break down food.
However, too much LDLcholesterol can contribute to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Because of this, it’s important to balance your cholesterol levels.
What About Fatty Acids?
Long-chainfatty acids, like omega-3 and omega-6, are building blocks of the three different kinds of lipids, and we’ll be discussing them in more depth as we learn how lipids are important to the endocannabinoid system.
Fatty acids can be classified as unsaturated fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturatedfatty acids, and polyunsaturatedfatty acids.
The Functions of Lipids
Lipids have numerous bodily functions, and we can group them into four categories.
Lipids store excess energy in adipose tissue, and that energy can be metabolized and released. Lipid storage is usually the result of excess carbohydrate intake. Excess glucose in the blood that is not immediately carried to the cells for fuel is taken to the liver, muscles, and adipose tissue for later use.
Lipids keep your body protected by insulating it with fatty tissue. Visceral fat, for instance, is made up of lipids and can be found around important organs like the heart and kidneys. We also have fatty tissue that cushions our joints and insulates our body to help keep us warm.
Proper digestion happens when our bodies can effectively break down the nutrients in the foods we eat and use them. Lipids help break down the foods we eat into usable parts. Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, K, and E work to aid in digestion in the stomach and in the intestines.
Signaling and Regulation
Lipids play a role in helping synapses in the brain get from one receptor to another. They’re also involved in helping keep our bodies regulated. For instance, triglycerides help control and regulate body temperature.
Lipids are used to make compounds that the body uses to interact with the ECS, the body’s ultimate balancing system.
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the late nineties and is a vast web of receptors located all over the body. The primary goal of these receptors is to keep your body regulated in a state of perfect balance, also known as homeostasis.
These receptors collect data from external sources and send messages to a control center, sending cells called effectors out to make needed adjustments.
A good example is body temperature. When it’s cold outside, receptors in the endocannabinoid system sense your body temperature dropping. They send a message to the control center, which signals the necessary effector to raise your core body temperature as needed.
There are two types of receptors: CB1 receptors, which are located primarily in the brain and central nervous system, and CB2 receptors, located in the immune system and adipose tissue.
CB1 receptors regulate functions like emotions, mood, sleep, fight or flight response, and cognitive function.
CB2 receptors regulate functions like immunity, appetite, pain regulation, liver function, and even cardiovascular health.
Stimulation of these receptors requires compounds known as cannabinoids. These are found in plants but can also be created in a lab. Your body makes its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, which bind to the receptors to help regulate bodily functions controlled by the ECS.
The body makes three endocannabinoids, anandamide, 2-AG, and pentadecanoylcarnitine (PDC).
This was the first endocannabinoid ever discovered and can bind to CB1 receptors. As such, it was given the Sanskrit word for bliss, as it helps elevate mood and stabilize emotions.
This is a fully-acting endocannabinoid, which means it can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors. As a fully acting endocannabinoid, this molecule is very useful in helping us understand how endocannabinoids modulate the endocannabinoid system and how supporting the human body’s synthesis of these molecules can lead us to advances in healthcare.
The most recently discovered endocannabinoid is also fully acting, binding to both CB1 and CB2 receptors. This discovery helps us understand that the body can make additional endocannabinoids, which can help us harness better balance and homeostasis.
How Endocannabinoids Are Made: The Lipid Connection
The body uses enzymes to create its endocannabinoids, and it creates them from fatty acids. When the endocannabinoid is no longer usable, an enzyme comes along and plays clean up, removing them from your system.
Your body uses essential fatty acids for the creation of endocannabinoids.
- Anandamide. This endocannabinoid is created from omega-3 and omega-6. It requires fatty acid amide hydrolase, also known as FAAH, to be broken down.
- 2-AG. Created from omega-3 and omega-6 broken down into arachidonic acid and glycerol, 2-AG requires monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) to break it down.
- PDC. Your body needs the fatty acid pentadecanoic acid (C15:0) and carnitine to create PDC. Not familiar with C15:0? It’s the newest essential fatty acid on the block and has huge health benefits, in addition to being the way your body produces PDC.
C15:0 is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid. Although we’ve been told that all saturated fats are bad for us, science now supports that that is not the case.
The importance of a class of fatty acids called odd-chain saturated fatty acids has recently been discovered. This important class of fatty acids includes C15:0, which has recently been identified as an essential fatty acid, the first to be discovered in over 90 years. An essential fatty acid is one our bodies don't make and thus, we must get it through our diets.
Science supports that higher levels of odd-chain saturated fatty acids and C15:0 are associated with better metabolic, heart and liver health.
How It Works
Unlike omegas, which are polyunsaturatedfatty acid oils, which are prone to oxidation and becoming rancid, C15:0 is solid at room temperature, which prevents it from oxidizing and allows your body to more easily absorb and metabolize it.
Research shows that C15:0 is better, broader, and safer than the purest, most effective form of omega-3 fatty acid (EPA), and that’s great news for people suffering through a daily fish oil capsule.
In head to head studies, C15:0 was safer for more cell types, repaired them more effectively, and provided more benefits to help maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as improved metabolic, heart and liver health.
Where Can You Find C15:0?
C15:0 is primarily found in trace levels in whole-fat cows milk, as well as some types of fish and plants. However, simply increasing your intake of whole-fat dairy comes with extra calories, sugars, and high levels of the "bad" even-chain saturated fats.
A solution? Fatty15.
Fatty 15: The Lipid You Need To Support Your ECS
Fatty15 is a breakthrough supplement, borne from scientific discovery, containing one pure ingredient, FA15™. This vegan-friendly, sustainably-produced, award-winning version of C15:0 can help restore your circulating levels of C15:0 and give your body the dietary fats it needs to create the endocannabinoid PDC, a fully-activating endocannabinoid that can help restore your body’s homeostatic state and improve your whole body and mind health.
Bringing your body back into homeostasis can help you feel better, live a more youthful life, and enjoy better balance.
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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