Endocannabinoids (ECs) are associated with obesity and ectopic fat accumulation, both of which play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in type 2 diabetes (T2D). The effect of prolonged caloric restriction on ECs in relation to fat distribution and cardiac function is still unknown. Therefore, our aim was to investigate this relationship in obese T2D patients with coronary artery disease (CAD).
In a prospective intervention study, obese T2D patients with CAD (n = 27) followed a 16 week very low calorie diet (VLCD; 450-1000 kcal/day). Cardiac function and fat accumulation were assessed with MRI and spectroscopy. Plasma levels of lipid species, including ECs, were measured using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.
VLCD decreased plasma levels of virtually all measured lipid species of the class of N-acylethanolamines including the EC anandamide (AEA; -15%, p = 0.016), without decreasing monoacylglycerols including the EC 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Baseline plasma AEA levels strongly correlated with the volume of subcutaneous white adipose tissue (SAT; R2 = 0.44, p < 0.001). VLCD decreased the volume of SAT (-53%, p < 0.001), visceral white adipose tissue (VAT) (-52%, p < 0.001), epicardial white adipose tissue (-15%, p < 0.001) and paracardial white adipose tissue (-28%, p < 0.001). VLCD also decreased hepatic (-86%, p < 0.001) and myocardial (-33%, p < 0.001) fat content. These effects were accompanied by an increased left ventricular ejection fraction (54.8 ± 8.7-56.2 ± 7.9%, p = 0.016).
Caloric restriction in T2D patients with CAD decreases AEA levels, but not 2-AG levels, which is paralleled by decreased lipid accumulation in adipose tissue, liver and heart, and improved cardiovascular function. Interestingly, baseline AEA levels strongly correlated with SAT volume. We anticipate that dietary interventions are worthwhile strategies in advanced T2D, and that reduction in AEA may contribute to the improved cardiometabolic phenotype induced by weight loss.