Measurement of palmitoylethanolamide and other N-acylethanolamines during physiological and pathological conditions

M.G.J. Balvers, K.C.M. Verhoeckx, J. Meijerink, H.M. Wortelboer, R.F. Witkamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) belongs to the N-acyl ethanolamines (NAEs), a group of endogenous compounds involved in a variety of physiological processes, including energy homeostasis and inflammation. This review focuses on the analysis of PEA in plasma and tissues and discusses effects of diet and some pathological processes on PEA levels. Originally isolated from egg yolk, PEA has been detected in a variety of tissues and plasma of different species. The compound is present at relatively high levels compared to other NAEs and now mostly analysed using liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. PEA plasma concentrations show marked fluctuations during the day. However, concentrations in tissues are likely to be more relevant than those in plasma. Most studies suggest that compared to other NAEs, tissue PEA tissue levels are not influenced by changes in dietary fatty acid composition. Effects of inflammation and disease on PEA tissue levels show differences between different models and studies. Therefore, more research is needed on the endogenous role and tissue kinetics of PEA during disease. The rediscovery of the therapeutic potential of PEA has fuelled research and the development of new pharmaceutical formulations. With regard to this there is a need for better kinetic data and models, preferably also on its tissue disposition. Moreover, it is important to learn more about effects of exogenous PEA on the kinetics of other NAEs (and endocannabinoids) and effects of inhibiting its breakdown using inhibitors of the degrading enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase or N-acylethanolamine-hydrolyzing acid amidase.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-33
JournalCNS & Neurological Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • tandem mass-spectrometry
  • polyunsaturated fatty-acids
  • human plasma
  • adipose-tissue
  • endocannabinoid metabolome
  • electrospray-ionization
  • palmitoyl-ethanolamine
  • quantitative method
  • rat-brain
  • fish-oil


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