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Is Hemp Oil the Best Source of Omega-3?

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As support for the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana usage increases across the United States, a number of products have emerged, seeking to take advantage of the trend. One of the most common examples is hemp, a fiber derived from the cannabis plant, which is commonly used to make rope, stout fabrics, paper and other materials. While most people will likely associate hemp with the knotted, beaded jewelry often found in shops and at festivals, at least one proponent is now claiming that oil made from this substance can be used as a source of omega 3 fatty acids. But is there any truth to these claims?

The many benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are a common topic of discussion and study in medical circles: in the past few months alone, several reports have linked omega-3s to reduced tobacco dependence, improved symptoms of ADD, and decreased risks of both cancer and psychosis. Additionally, past studies have found that omega 3 fatty acids can improve mental skills, such as memory, and lower inflammation, assisting patients with asthma and other conditions. However, because fatty fish, one of the most common sources of omega-3, have been found to contain mercury, PCBs and other toxins, many people prefer to take supplements like fish oil pills, which are tasteless and present the same benefits as food products that contain omega 3 fatty acids.

However, Paul Benheim, founder of Hemp Foods Australia, claims that fish oil supplements do not possess half of the benefits of hemp oil. Benheim reports that his products contain some of the highest concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6, with 110% more of these essential polyunsaturated fats than fish oil. He states that this is because hemp oil supplies alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which the body can transform into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two beneficial components that give omega 3 fatty acids their benefits. Because of this, Benheim claims that a tablespoon of hemp oil a day allows a person to produce the necessary amounts of EPA and DHA to allow them to thrive.

Unfortunately, some of Benheim’s claims are questionable at best. While the human body can transform ALA into EPA and DHA, it takes a significant amount of energy and raw product to do so; because of this, doctors usually recommend that patients focus on eating products rich in EPA and DHA, rather than ALA-heavy items like spinach and soybeans. Instead, most dietitians suggest eating fatty fish like anchovy, which have consumed ALA themselves and stored it as EPA and DHA, reducing the need to transform the product. Some people may even take EPA only fish oil pills to further reduce the energy needed to access the benefits of the substance. As a result, claims of a 110% higher rate of omega-3s may mean little after the transfer of ALA to EPA and DHA.

When it comes to finding right products to benefit your health, it can be difficult to search through the information available and identify the best choices. Fortunately, paying close attention to the claims being made can reveal a number of positive and negative facts about every product. For this reason, whether you’re choosing an omega-3 supplement or a similar choice, take time to research before you invest needlessly in the latest fad.

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