Hemp, Essential Fatty Acids, and Your Health

Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) and Linoleic Acid (LA) were discovered in 1923 and nicknamed ‘Vitamin F.' However, further research made it clear that Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) and Linoleic Acid (LA) are actually fatty acids.

ALA (omega-3) and LA (omega-6) are the only fatty acids that are essential for the human body to get from outside sources. Meaning, we cannot synthesize them - much like Vitamin C, for example.

We call a nutrient essential when it is an absolute must to obtain from your diet for normal, healthy physiological function.

Mother Nature made hemp even more of a wonder-plant by including these essential fatty acids (EFA’s) into its composition. Also, they exist in exact quantities that are ideal for human consumption.

 Hemp Seeds and Hemp Seed Oil - Great Source of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's) - ALA and LA

 

Hemp Seeds - The Perfect Food

Many of us have heard of the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.), but do we understand the serious consequences of this average way of eating? On the S.A.D., it is not unusual to consume omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a 1:15, or even 1:20 ratio - if not more!

Studies show that somewhere between a 1:1 and 1:4 ratio of 3/6 is where people experience the most health benefits. Let’s take a look at the omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratios in some popular foods: 

 

  • Cashews:                       1:125
  • Hazelnuts:                     1:90
  • Pecans:                          1:20
  • Pistachios:                     1:52
  • Sunflower Seeds:         1:312
  • Almonds:                       1:2010
  • Peanuts:                        1:5320
  • Hemp Seeds/Oil:          1:3
  • Walnuts:                        1:17
  • Grain-fed Beef:             1:10
  • Tomatoes:                     1:27
  • Carrots:                          1:58
  • Parsley:                          1:14
  • Chickpeas:                     1:26
  • Soybeans:                      1:8
  • Palm Oil:                        1:45
  • Olive Oil:                        1:13
  • Grape Seed Oil:            1:696
  • Avocado Oil:                  1:13
  • Butter:                            1:9
  • Corn Oil:                         1:46


Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil are exceptional in their ability to offer a near-perfect ratio of essential fatty acids for the human body.

When eating hemp in any form, you can rest assured you are giving your body what it needs for top-notch functioning. Not to mention, hemp contains all the essential amino acids in an easy-to-digest form (as well as building blocks for antibody production).

However, eating hemp seeds alone may not be enough for many who find themselves to be consuming a massive amount of omega-6 fatty acids. You may find it necessary to focus on consuming omega-3 rich foods. Here are some examples of what those are:

  • Wild Atlantic Salmon:      12:1
  • Tuna (canned in water):  31:1
  • Lobster:                             20:1
  • Chia:                                   3:1
  • Flax Seeds:                        4:1
  • Cod Liver Oil:                    21:1
  • Spinach:                             5:1
  • Grass-Fed Beef:                2:1

 

Ingesting the correct balance of fatty acids is equally crucial as consuming enough of these vital nutrients. The reason for this is that ALA and LA compete for metabolism with the same enzyme (delta-6 desaturase). Taking in too much LA will overwhelm this metabolic pathway and leave ALA underutilized - leading to a multitude of other health maladies.

 

Dietary sources of essential fatty acids - DHA, EPA, ALA, and LA

To give you an idea of their supreme importance, EFA’s are primary building blocks for:

  • Eicoasanoids (inflammatory-process regulation molecules)
  • Endocannabinoids (anandamide, 2-AG, and others)
  • Lipid Rafts (thought to be crucial for cellular membrane fluidity and neurotransmission)
  • Hepoxilins (influence everything from the nervous system to insulin secretion and circulation)
  • Epoxyeicosatrienoic Acids (can increase axon growth in neurons, as well as cell growth)
  • Lipoxins (allosteric modulator of CB2 receptor that enhances anandamide signaling)

Gamma-Linoleic Acid (GLA) and Oleic Acid

Falling into the category of ‘conditionally essential’ Gamma-Linoleic Acid (GLA) is another uncommon fatty acid found in hemp seeds.

Although the body can convert LA into GLA, aging or other health conditions may impair the efficiency of this conversion route, causing a need to consume GLA through dietary sources. In such an instance, hemp seeds are an excellent option.

Yet another fatty acid found in hemp seeds, Oleic Acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid - the same substance that comprises nearly 80% of olive oil. Oleic Acid is a health-promoting fatty acid with a wide range of purported health benefits.

What About DHA and EPA?

Many people consume fish oils for their content of DHA and EPA; while these two fatty acids are undoubtedly important, they are not ‘essential’ fatty acids, as the human body can synthesize them from ALA.

However, this conversion process is more efficient in women than men (perhaps to ensure the health of offspring during pregnancy and nursing, as developing brains require DHA in higher than average amounts), and is limited by the same enzyme discussed earlier. Experts estimate that as little as 5-21% of ALA converts into EPA, and a mere 1-9% to DHA.

The good news is that hemp seeds contain an obscure fatty acid called stearidonic acid, which is the direct metabolite of ALA in the body. What this means is that hemp seeds may boost EPA and DHA more than other sources of EFA’s, as stearidonic acid does not rely on the rate-limiting enzyme, and can freely convert to EPA and DHA.

However, depending on your personal needs, genetics, and biochemistry, supplementing with DHA or EPA may still be necessary.

The Problems with Fish Oil

While fish oil has proven health benefits thanks to its rich content of DHA and EPA, there are some serious problems with choosing this as a source of EFA's. 

A large percentage of fish oils are sourced from forage fish such as krill, menhaden, and sardines. Forage fish are vital members of the ocean food web, as they are the primary food source for a large variety of marine creatures (such as whales, dolphins, salmon, and seabirds).

Additionally, forage fish play a crucial role in keeping the oceans clean - a fully-grown menhaden can filter four to six gallons of seawater a minute!

Over-fishing is a considerable problem our society currently faces. The UN says that as much as 70% of the planet's fish are already depleted or fully exploited. Estimates state that if the current trend in over-fishing continues, we can expect a complete collapse of worldwide fish populations by 2048. 

Contamination is the other main issue with fish oils - over the last 20 years, ocean mercury levels have risen about 30%. Mercury, along with other environmental toxins like endocrine-disrupting dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's) can accumulate in the tissues of fish, and ultimately end up concentrated in fish oil products. 

Lastly, many individuals who wish to increase their DHA/EPA intake may be vegans or vegetarians, which prevents fish oil from being a viable option to enhance their EFA levels. 

 

Problems with DHA fish oil - sustainability, over fishing, contamination 

 

 

The Answer - Vegan Algal DHA

Fish do not produce omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA on their own - their process is similar to humans in that they synthesize it from nutrients obtained in their diet. Certain types of algae that fish eat contain plentiful amounts of DHA. How cool is that?

Algal DHA that we see in stores today, has its roots in the 1980s, where a Baltimore-based company worked together with NASA to study a particular strain of algae that produced large amounts of DHA. This idea first existed intending to create a living, regenerative ecosystem that could be taken on NASA flights to nourish the astronauts while in space.

They soon realized their discovery could also be very beneficial to inhabitants of Earth, and in 1985 Martek Biosciences was formed, and the vegan algal supplements 'life'sDHA' became available to the public. Life'sDHA is now found in at least 99% of infant formulas sold in the United States.

Algal DHA provides the same health benefits of fish-oil sourced DHA and is 100% vegan and environmentally friendly. The combination of algal DHA and EFA's from hemp seeds/hemp seed oil may be the perfect combination to achieve nutritional balance on a plant-based diet!

 

 

 Vegan Algal DHA - Life'sDHA - Alternative to Fish Oil

Essential Fatty Acids and Endocannabinoid Production

Over the last several decades, omega-3 and omega-6 derived endocannabinoids have been an exciting focus of much scientific research. Many EFA-derived molecules function in a similar way to anandamide or 2-AG.

These omega-3/omega-6 endocannabinoids are multi-functional molecules that affect virtually every physiological system in the body. Examples of these compounds include:

  • DHA-serotonin (DHA-5HT)
  • DHA-dopamine (DHA-DA)
  • Docosahexaenoyl ethanolamide (DHA-EA/synaptamide)
  • Docosahexanoyl-glycerol (DHG)

These endocannabinoids have a variety of effects on human health; for example, DHA-EA (aka synaptamide) has been shown to increase the growth of neurons in the brain. 

Also, as these chemicals are metabolized by FAAH (just like anandamide), they become far more effective when an FAAH inhibitor is used. CBD oil is proven to inhibit FAAH, meaning that taking an EFA supplement at the same time as CBD will have synergistic effects for the human body.

The Ananda Hemp Difference

One of the advantages of our complete vertical integration at Ananda Hemp is our ability to press and use our very own hemp seed oil. This is the same hemp seed oil we use as a carrier in our full line of CBD oils and softgels.

While paying attention to the carrier oil may not be something you're accustomed to when looking for the best CBD oil to take, perhaps it should be at the forefront of your awareness when browsing.

Many brands use olive oil or palm oil, and while they won't kill you, they will certainly do you no favors in terms of finding your ideal EFA balance. At worst, companies use grapeseed oil - one of the most severe offenders in terms of omega-6 fatty acid content (some would go so far as to call grapeseed oil a toxin).

Not only do we use cold-pressed hemp seed oil in our Ananda Hemp CBD products - but we go so far as to press the oil from the seeds ourselves! It doesn't get much better than that.


Using Ananda Hemp CBD is the total package for holistic health. You can optimize your natural balance of EFA's, which in turn increases endocannabinoid production. The full spectrum of cannabinoids in our CBD oil is the icing on the cake, helping to fine-tune your endocannabinoid system for peak performance. The result? Pure bliss.

 

Feeling bliss from taking Ananda Hemp CBD oil

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