Where it comes from: Oleoylethanolamide (OEA) is a lipid that’s synthesized naturally by the intestines.
The presence of OEA is higher during the day when the body is fully saturated with food and lower at nighttime during periods of starvation.
The effects of OEA were first studied because it shares similarities with another chemical, a cannabinoid known as anandamide. Cannabinoids are related to, you guessed it, the plant Cannabis, and anandamides present in the plant (and marijuana) can increase a person’s desire to snack by triggering a feeding response. Although OEA has a chemical structure that is similar to anandamide, its effects on eating and weight management are different.
What it’ll do for you: “Studies report that OEA can turn off the switch in the central nervous system for hunger,” explains Roberta Anding, RD, ADA spokesperson and sports dietitian for the Houston Texans.
Before 2001, there wasn’t much research on OEA. But that year, Spanish researchers broke down the lipid and studied how it’s made, where it’s used and what it does. They tested the effect of OEA on the brain (of rats) by injecting it directly into the brain ventricles. They found no effect on eating and confirmed that OEA does not act in the brain, but rather, it triggers a separate signal that affects hunger and eating behavior.
So how does it work then? OEA works to activate something called PPAR and simultaneously ramps up fat-burning and decreases fat storage. When you eat, OEA levels increase and your appetite decreases when the sensory nerves that link to your brain tell it that you’re full. There have been many studies proving this effect. A good one: In 2004, Danish researchers looked at rats that had been starved for 24 hours. They administered OEA (10 mg/kg of body weight) and found that food intake was reduced by 15.5 percent.
Additionally, a 2009 study at the University of California reported that OEA also affects memory-enhancing signals in the part of the brain that remembers emotional events. The researchers said that when placed in a maze, the OEA helped animals remember where they found a nice, fatty meal. This memory trigger is believed to be a key aspect in human’s earlier primitive lifestyle but also hypothesizes that fatty foods could help in the formation of long-term memories.
Suggested intake: Oleoylethanolamide is not a lipid that’s essential, meaning you won’t suffer from OEA deprivation. There’s not a lot of research on OEA supplementation in humans, and while regarded as safe, there’s no recommended dosage.
Find OEA in supplements such as LipidFX, by the company SciVation, and Red Acid, by Controlled Labs. Speak with your doctor before taking these and any other supplements that deal with how the body processes fat.
Associated risks/scrutiny: Many experts believe that there is no magic pill to curb your appetite and to market OEA as such a supplement, is inaccurate. While the supplement has effects on the feeling of satiety, experts believe it’s safe as an anti-obesity pill, not one meant for body builders and people looking to shed those final 10 pounds.
One of the lead researchers on the University of California study mentioned earlier adds that, while OEA contributes to feelings of fullness and well being after a meal, it could also cause long term cravings for fatty foods that could lead to obesity if eaten in excess.