Hemp seed oil: A healthy and sustainable source of omega fatty acids By Olivia Cook for Super Foods
Fish oil capsules have become synonymous with healthy omegas as they dominated the market for many years. But there is actually a better and more sustainable source of omegas – hemp seed oil.
Hemp seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant, which is commonly known as hemp. Since ancient times, various parts of this versatile plant have been use as food, raw material, fuel and natural remedy.
Hemp seed oil: A great alternative to fish oil
Detailed below are the things that make hemp seed oil unique and a better alternative to fish oil.
Essential fatty acids
Hemp seed oil is over 80 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and is a great source of essential omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and non-essential omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acids, which are important dietary fats and indispensable for the function and development of the brain and nervous system and the production of healthy cell membranes.
They all have health benefits, but it is important to get the right balance between the omegas for your body to absorb and thrive off them. An imbalance in your diet may contribute to a number of chronic diseases. If you’re vegetarian or allergic to seafood, getting all your omega-healthy fatty acids is no longer a challenge because hemp seed oil changes all that.
As published in Euphytica, hemp seed oil is unique as it contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the ideal 3:1 ratio, which is necessary for optimum human health.
Hemp seed oil also features the superior form of omega-3 stearidonic acid (SDA), which converts to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in your body more efficiently than fish oil.
Peer-reviewed studies have shown that plant-sourced topical and ingestible SDA has the following: anti-aging properties that can increase dermal structural proteins and reduce fine lines and wrinkles while inhibiting ultraviolet-induced inflammation; anti-obesity properties that can suppress adipocyte (fat cell) differentiation; anti-diabetes properties that can suppress Type 2 diabetes biomarkers; anti-inflammation properties that can decrease intestinal prostaglandin E2 or PGE2 (a potent inflammatory mediator) sequestration; and anti-tumorigenesis properties that can reduce growth of human breast cancer cells in vitro (something in glass, such as a test tube or petri dish) and in vivo (within a living organism).
Hemp seed oil is also a great source of omega-9, which fish oil isn’t. Also, the omega-3 found in hemp seed oil is a much more stable form and will not oxidize like fish oil.
Nutrients and terpenes not present in fish oils
When you receive your healthy fats from a plant-based omega fatty acid source like hemp seed oil, you also benefit from other nutrients and terpenes that are not present in fish oils. Fish oil naturally contains saturated fats, which must be artificially processed out.
Aside from providing an abundance of essential fatty acids, hemp seed oil is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, D and E, as well as minerals like copper, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc. It is also packed with protein (more than 30 percent) and is one of the few plant-based foods that contain all nine essential amino acids.
Environment and sustainability
In his book “The Omega Principle: Seafood and The Quest for a Long Life and a Healthier Planet,” author Paul Greenberg said “harvesting tiny fish and other sea life for omega-3 supplements has a ripple effect leading to less healthy and bountiful oceans.”
As their population dwindles as a result of commercial overfishing, the absence of large quantities of forage or bait fish, such as anchovies and krill, can negatively impact the aquatic food chain—causing another man-made environmental imbalance.
Hemp seed oil is very sustainable and contributes significantly to our natural environment by promoting the regeneration of the soil, stopping erosion and reducing greenhouse emissions.
A healthier and more sustainable alternative to fish oil
Hemp seed oil contains 104 percent more PUFAs than fish oil and 460 percent more than whole fish. In addition, by consuming high levels of oily fish, people also expose themselves to potential health complications due to contaminants, such as heavy metals and residual pesticides that inevitably leach into water sources, in the fish sauce.
Hemp seed oil has no aftertaste and you can apply it directly to your skin as it’s easily absorbed, does not clog pores and doesn’t stink. In contrast, fish oil has a fishy aftertaste and can leave you with bad breath.
Fish oil is heat-treated while hemp seed oil is raw and cold-pressed from hemp seeds, keeping its diverse nutrient profile intact.
Health benefits of hemp seed oil
Versatile and nutrient-dense, hemp seed oil offers a plethora of health benefits. Studies have shown that hemp seed oil can help do the following:
Support cardiovascular health
According to peer-reviewed published references, hemp seed oil features the superior form of omega-3 SDA, whose topical and ingestible applications have been associated with coronary heart disease/cardiovascular disease prevention as it decreases cholesterol blood fractions and triglycerides.
According to a study published in Nutrition and Metabolism, hemp seed oil contains all of the essential amino acids and high amounts of the amino acid arginine, which is converted to nitric acid oxide in the body – helping maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
The omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid in hemp seed oil is believed to support healthy cardiovascular function by helping maintain normal heart rhythm.
Support healthy cognitive function
Hemp seed oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is essential for the proper growth and functional development of the brain of infants and young children. In adults, DHA is also needed for the maintenance of normal cognitive function.
DHA accounts for 97 percent of the omega-3 fatty acids found in the brain and 25 percent of the brain’s total fat content.
Support healthy immune function
The combined nutritional benefits of hemp seed oil play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune systemby reducing inflammation and promoting strong immune defenses.
Vitamin C boosts immunity; calcium promotes healthy bones; magnesium reduces inflammation; vitamin E contributes to healthy skin to shield the body from infection; and iron is a key factor in the production of red blood cells. There is also an important protein in hemp seed oil known as globulin, which synthesizes antibodies that help the body fight infections.
Unlike fish oil, hemp seed oil offers the ideal 3:1 ratio of healthy omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which influences healthy immune function.
Since a huge part of the immune system is in the gut, hemp seed oil can further support healthy immune function by feeding the friendly bacteria in the gut.
Support musculoskeletal health
Hemp seed oil contains vitamins D3, E and A that have antioxidant properties that can override harmful molecules known as free radicals, and is one of only a few sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) – an essential fatty acid thought to be responsible for much of the anti-inflammatory properties that make up hemp seed oil popular with people suffering from arthritis and eczema.
Support digestive health
The good fatty acids in hemp seed oil could potentially promote good microbes in the gut flora, which assists in digestion.
Support healthy skin, hair and nails
Hemp seed oil is loaded with phenols and antioxidants, which help with the reduction of free radicals, contributing to a more youthful and naturally healthy body and skin. People who use hemp seed oil report having thicker and shinier hair, softer skin and stronger nails.
Hemp seed oil is high in antioxidant constituents, such as omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which helps maintain a healthy scalp and support the growth of healthy hair by ensuring that each strand retains enough moisture; omega-6 GLA, omega-3 SDA and vitamins A, C and E, which and give your skin some protection against premature aging and evening out skin tone. (Related: Hemp seed oil: The new healthy oil)
Hemp seed oil is an emollient (chemicals that remain in the stratum corneum or the outermost layer of the epidermis) that won’t clog pores and maintain the skin’s softness, smoothness and elasticity.
Acting as a cleanser and lubricant, hemp seed oil is used as a facial serum to reverse dryness and scaling, fine lines and wrinkles and irritant contact dermatitis.
Of the many possible uses of hemp seed oil as a direct treatment, its efficacy in treating atopic dermatitis (eczema) is the most promising, according to a study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment.
But if you’re trying hemp seed oil as a new skin care product for the first time, be on the lookout for any signs of sensitivity or irritation like redness, itching or rash.
Support sensible weight management goals
The omega-6 GLA in hemp seed oil may help reduce sugar cravings and potentially act as a natural appetite suppressant. This could lead to weight loss by making you consume fewer calories.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that previously obese individuals taking GLA supplements for a year managed to regain less weight once they stopped taking the supplements.