Razi Berry

More than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Eating foods containing high levels of fats and sugars — the “Western diet” — can lead to obesity and significantly reduce life expectancy.

Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) can lead to obesity and reduce life expectancy

Nicholas DiPatrizio, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, has received a five-year grant of more than $1.7 million from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, to identify novel gut-brain endocannabinoid signaling pathways that control feeding behavior and become impaired in obesity.

UCR’s first cannabis grant awarded to identify novel gut-brain endocannabinoid signaling pathways controlling feeding behavior

“Our work, which will be done on a mouse model, will support the discovery and development of novel therapeutic strategies to safely treat obesity and related metabolic disorders. Currently, a critical barrier to effective treatment of obesity is a lack of reliable therapeutic options,” said Nicholas DiPatrizio, assistant professor of biomedical sciences, UCR.

What are endocannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids are cannabis-like molecules made naturally by the body to regulate a wide variety of physiological processes. As with cannabis, endocannabinoids can enhance feeding behavior. The endocannabinoid system in mice is extremely similar to the one in humans.

Recent studies on mice from the DiPatrizio lab have shown that the endocannabinoid system in the gut plays a critical role in gut-brain signaling — especially where feeling satiated is concerned. The system becomes impaired in diet-induced obesity, resulting in the mice steadily gaining weight and not feeling full even after consuming a large amount of food.

“We think the endocannabinoid system gets remodeled after exposure to high-energy nutrients and contributes to overeating in diet-induced obesity,” DiPatrizio said. “Our preliminary results support this hypothesis.”

How food intake and energy balance are controlled

DiPatrizio explained that food intake and energy balance are controlled by a dynamic interplay of gut-brain signaling pathways; the molecular underpinnings in these processes and their impairment in obesity, however, remain poorly understood.

“What are the specific components in the Western diet that at the molecular level impact gut-brain endocannabinoid system signaling and diet-induced obesity?” he said. “We will work to identify these components.”

DiPatrizio, who recently received UCR’s first cannabis grant, will be joined in the research by doctoral students and staff in his lab.


Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of  the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review, which has been in print since 2005, and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on social media: Find her on Facebook at Razi Berry, on Instagram at Razi.Berry, join her Love is Medicine group to explore the convergence of love and health, and find more Love is Medicine podcast episodes here.

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