According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight in 2014, including 600 million who were obese. This pandemic, which also affects children and adolescents, is one of the century’s leading worldwide health challenges. Obesity increases the prevalence of many diseases, including diabetes, cardiometabolic disease, certain cancers, and inflammatory diseases, placing a major financial burden on society. In 2015 Statistics Canada estimated that 3.5 million Canadians suffered from Type 2 diabetes andthat metabolic disease directly linked to obesity had cost the country more than $14 billion.
The latest discoveries in human health increasingly reveal the urgency of understanding the composition and function of the human intestinal microbiome in promoting health in order to put a halt to this scourge.

The Canada Excellence Research Chair on the Microbiome-Endocannabinoidome Axis in Metabolic Health is the first chair in the world dedicated
to the integrated study of the intestinal microbiome and its impairments in order to understand its influence on the molecular mechanisms underlying obesity, as well as the development of Type 2 diabetes, cardiometabolic disease, and other associated health issues. The chair’s mission consists of identifying new therapeutic targets and designing innovative medical and nutritional strategies to maintain health and prevent certain illnesses.

The Chair will study the mechanisms through which the intestinal microbiome and the metabolic syndrome influence each other through the endocannabinoidome. The microbiome is the complex system comprising the colon’s microbial population as well as its dynamics, structure, and functions.
The endocannabinoidome is a network of chemical signals linked to the endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating and stabilizing body functions. Since the intestinal microbiome is closely linked to diet, it is important to study how diet influences its structure and functions to understand how it modifies cardiometabolic health. The Chair intends to deepen and expand knowledge on the subject by studying several questions simultaneously, including the following: Through what mechanism does a disorder in the intestinal microbiome lead to obesity and the development of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other illnesses? Can nutrition, surgery, and behaviour modulate the intestinal microbiome to improve metabolic, gastrointestinal, and cardiac health, and if so, how? Where, when, and how does the intestinal microbiome affect the endocannabinoid system, and what are the consequences? Finding answers will require creating an impressive research team at Université Laval to work closely with the International Joint Unit (UMI) on chemical and biomolecular microbiome research: nutritional applications and impact on metabolic health, which was recently created by Université Laval and Italy’s National Research Council.

To date, studies on obesity have focused especially on genetic, physiological, and behavioral factors.
By integrating a study of the microbiome into conventional approaches, the Chair will expand the horizons of research into this multifactorial disease by shedding light on the complex and subtle mechanisms modulating metabolic health in response to diet. The Chair will help identify new research avenues, targets, and approaches to maintain health and prevent the metabolic complications of obesity.

The creation of this Chair attests to the reputation for excellence of the scientific research teams at Université Laval, which for the last 60 years have worked hard to improve public health. The research carried out by Vicenzo Di Marzo is based on the vast scientific expertise of several Université Laval entities, including the Faculty of Medicine; the Faculty of Food and Agriculture Science; the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute Research Centre, renowned for its integrated studies into obesity and chronic social illness; and the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods, known for its multidisciplinary work on the effects of food on health and the prevention of chronic illnesses caused by diet.
Collaboration with the Quebec-Italy UMI will help identify, develop, and formulate new drugs for metabolic health.
This new Canada Excellence Research Chair joins three other cutting-edge CERC research projects in which Université Laval has been recognized as a leader in Canada: remote sensing of Canada’s new Arctic frontier; innovations in photonics; and neurophotonics. These four CERCs contribute to the scientific program of Sentinel North. This unprecedented research into the Canadian North headed by Université Laval aims to provide a better understanding of human beings, their environment, and the consequences of environmental changes on human health.