It is well known that omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are essential for human health. The common advice is to get a good supply in your diet, you need to eat oily fish or take fish oil supplements on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the majority of fish oil supplements are slowly killing our society and our environment. Plant-based sources of the omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are a much healthier alternative, and one of the best sources available is hemp seed oil.
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What are the omega-3 and 6 fatty acids?
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an 'essential' omega-3 fatty acid. It cannot be made by the body, but is consumed through the food we eat. ALA is converted to the longer chain fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Linoleic acid (LA) is also an 'essential' omega-6 fatty acid and is the precursor to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Omega-6 fatty acids are found in sources including soybean, sunflower, and canola oils, poultry and eggs.
The typical Western diet has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 15:1, however, the recommended ratio is 3:1. Popular advice is that we should consume more oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, or take supplements that contain concentrated amounts of EPA & DHA.
Benefits of including more omega-3 in the diet
- Smarter children - Children in mainstream primary schools taking DHA supplements were better behaved and showed increased reading ability
- Pregnant women - Taking omega-3 during pregnancy reduces post-partum depression and results in healthier babies
- Cancer prevention - Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer
Issues with fish and fish oil supplements
While fish and fish oil supplements are an excellent source EPA and DHA, they are also polluted with contaminants methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's) and dioxins. Methylmercury is toxic to unborn babies as it prevents the brain and nervous system from developing normally.
The environmental impact of fish and fish oils is also an issue. Time Magazine reported that the market for omega-3 supplements doubled to $1 billion U.S. dollars between 2006 and 2010. A Canadian research group argued that the recommended dose of 100 mg of fish oils per day is not sustainable and could lead to fish stocks collapsing by the middle of the 21st century.
Hemp seed oil - A better solution
While EPA & DHA are only found in oily fish, the body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA. The conversion between ALA to EPA is inefficient; even in healthy people it is only two to five percent. However, hemp seed oil contains stearidonic acid (SDA) and if taken directly, the conversion to EPA is much easier.
Companies like Monsanto are taking advantage of this fact and are genetically modifying the soya bean to produce SDA.
Thankfully, hemp is a natural source of SDA so there is no need to consume GM produce to get a plant-based supply of omega-3s. Hemp is a source of the rare omega-6 fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which has many of the health benefits of EPA.
Hemp seed oil contains LA (omega-6) and ALA (omega-3) in the optimum 3:1 ratio for human health and it has a pleasant nutty taste, although it does need to be kept refrigerated to preserve the quality of the oil.
Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are important for our health and longevity. If you want to avoid fish for whatever reason, hemp is a fantastic alternative.
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