Effects of omega-3 supplementation on components of the endocannabinoid system and metabolic and inflammatory responses in adipose and liver of peripartum dairy cows

Gitit Kra, Jayasimha Rayalu Daddam, Uzi Moallem, Hadar Kamer, Radka Kočvarová, Alina Nemirovski, G. Andres Contreras, Joseph Tam, Maya Zachut*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Dietary supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the activation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) by decreasing the availability of arachidonic acid, thus lowering endocannabinoids (eCBs) levels. The ECS is a modulator of energy metabolism, stress response and inflammation in mammals, yet there is little information on the roles of the ECS in transition dairy cows. During the periparturient period, the adipose tissue and liver are the main metabolic organs that participate in the adaptations of dairy cows to onset of lactation; however, exceeded adipose tissue lipolysis and accumulation of lipids in the liver have adverse effects on cows’ physiology. Here we aimed to examine whether omega-3 supplementation during the transition period will modulate ECS activation and affect metabolic and inflammatory indices in postpartum dairy cows, by supplementing twenty-eight transition Holstein dairy cows with either saturated fat (CTL) or encapsulated flaxseed oil (FLX). Components of the ECS, metabolic and inflammatory markers were measured in blood, liver, and subcutaneous adipose tissue. Results: FLX supplementation reduced feed intake by 8.1% (P < 0.01) and reduced plasma levels of arachidonic acid (by 44.2%; P = 0.02) and anandamide (by 49.7%; P = 0.03) postpartum compared to CTL. The mRNA transcription levels of the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CNR1/CB1) tended to be lower (2.5 folds) in white blood cells of FLX than in CTL (P = 0.10), and protein abundance of ECS enzyme monoacylglycerol lipase was higher in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of FLX than in CTL (P = 0.04). In adipose tissue, palmitoylethanolamide levels were lower in FLX than in CTL (by 61.5%; P = 0.02), relative mRNA transcription of lipogenic genes were higher, and the protein abundance of cannabinoid receptor 2 (P = 0.08) and monoacylglycerol lipase (P = 0.10) tended to be higher in FLX compared to CTL. Hepatic 2-arachidonoylglycerol tended to be higher (by 73.1%; P = 0.07), and interlukin-6 mRNA transcription level was 1.5 folds lower in liver of FLX than in CTL (P = 0.03). Conclusions: Nutritional supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids seems to partly modulate ECS activation, which could be related to lower feed intake. The altered ECS components in blood, adipose tissue and liver are associated with moderate modulations in lipid metabolism in the adipose and inflammation in liver of peripartum dairy cows.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number114
JournalJournal of Animal Science and Biotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Research Grant No. IS-5167–19 from BARD, The United States—Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (Rishon Lezion, Israel) to J.T, G.A.C and M.Z; J.R.D received a postdoc scholarship from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Adipose
  • Dairy cows
  • Endocannabinoid system
  • Liver
  • Omega-3


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