Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3s. A new study in animal tissue reveals the cascade of chemical reactions that convert omega-3s into cannabinoids that have anti-inflammatory benefits — but without the psychotropic high. The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Foods such as meat, eggs, fish and nuts contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which the body converts into endocannabinoids — cannabinoids that the body produces naturally, said Aditi Das, a University of Illinois professor, who led the study. Cannabinoids in cannabis and endocannabinoids produced in the body can support the body’s immune system. “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,” Das said. “This finding demonstrates how omega-3 fatty acids can produce some of the same medicinal qualities as marijuana, but without a psychotropic effect.”