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Hempseed Oil Could be the Next Big Thing in Health

Update Date: Feb 12, 2014 10:44 AM EST

A healthy diet contributes greatly to overall wellbeing. Several studies have set out to discover healthier food alternatives that people can include into their diets. In a new study, researchers examined plant chemicals, which have been tied to improving blood pressure. The team of Spanish researchers concluded that hempseed oil, which has a good ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids could contribute to an overall heart-healthy diet.

"This is an interesting study that gives new information on the bioactive compounds found in hempseed that may potentially lower blood cholesterol levels and have an anti-atherogenic action," Grant Pierce, the executive director of research at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada told Reuters Health. Pierce was not involved with the study. "It [hemp] has several potentially important bioactive compounds that could have beneficial cardiovascular effects. It is a very heart healthy seed and oil."

For this study, the researchers examined the potential health benefits of the oil extracted from Cannabis sativa. Cannabis sativa, which is often called industrial hemp, is related to marijuana. However, Cannabis sativa contains lower levels of the active chemical found in marijuana that gives people a high.

"C. sativa L., an annual herbaceous plant, is known by its long, thin flowers and spiky leaves. The plant is considered to be native of western and central Asia and has also been cultivated commercially in Europe and in parts of China, Japan, Canada, and the United States," the authors wrote.

The research team headed by Maria Angeles Fernández-Arche, a pharmacology researcher at the University of Seville analyzed the fatty oil makeup of hempseed oil. They reported that three-quarters of the oil was made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which include omega-6, omega-3, flax oils, and fish oils. The researchers added that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 was about three to one, which is highly ideal. The researchers also found high levels of alpha linolenic acid, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid.

"[Alpha linolenic acid] may have favorable nutritional implications and beneficial physiological effects on the prevention of coronary heart disease and cancer," the researchers added.

The team added that the proportion of polyunsaturated fats to saturated fats found in hempseed oil suggests that this kind of oil could help prevent heart disease. However, the researchers have not actually found evidence that consuming hempseed oil contributed to an improved overall health. The team plans on studying the effects of hempseed oil after they finish with the animal trials.

"The preliminary results are very promising," Fernández-Arche said.

The findings were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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