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The Hemp Report

An online trade journal covering the North America hemp industry: agriculture, processing, marketing, research, business and regulatory news, and updates. Strong focus on hemp farming and developments in Canada.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Omega-3's and Eicosanoids 

Yesterday I was reading a story at CBS News about Depression: Cure's In Your Diet? In it the author writes that in "Three separate clinical studies in Britain, Israel, and the U.S. show an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish had what researchers describe as "a substantial impact" on depression and bi-polar disorder." I've thought for a long time that things like this are caused by a chemical imbalance of some sort and the cure is to correct the imbalance and not to just take pharmaceutical drugs to mask the problem. Diet seems to be a little known thing to doctors and lay people alike.

OK, so I have been educating myself, and cooking with hemp seed and oil a lot, too. (I'm just about out of shelled hemp seed so today I ordered another 25 pounds.) One interesting thing is that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is being updated. I read in one of their meeting summaries that Dr. Edward Siguel testified that he "found that about 30 percent of adult Americans are deficient in omega-6 fats, and about 70 percent are deficient in omega-3 fats, using samples from the Framingham Heart Study and several other populations." That's pretty stunning, especially from the man who coined the term essential fats.

So, about 70 percent of Americans don't get enough omega-3s. The answer is not just using menhadens oil in school lunches in South Texas schools. Menhadens oil (a refined marine oil that is derived from menhaden fish) has been going through an update to its GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status in the U.S. The FDA wanted to set "limitations on the maximum use levels of menhaden oil in specific food categories. FDA concluded that these limitations are necessary to ensure that daily intakes of EPA and DHA from menhaden oil do not exceed 3.0 grams per person per day (g/p/d)."

A lot of people are finding that they want to get their omega-3 fatty acids from non-marine sources. So how do you find out what you really need? Here is a simple answer: Health Canada recommends a daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids that represents 0.5% of total energy intake. For an adult on a 2000 kcal diet, this is about 1 g of omega-3 fatty acids. (The United States does not have a recommended intake of omega-3 fatty acids at the present time, though the National Institutes of Health recommends 2 grams per day.) Wouldn't it be easier to eat a product that has 4tsp/13g of shelled hemp seed or 1 tsp/5.6 g of hemp oil to get your 1 g of omega-3 fatty acids? I think so.

For those of you who want to know more detailed information I have found some obscure government web sites about EFA Education. In it you can find out about essential fats in food oils, though hemp oil is not mentioned, yet. However, the coolest thing is their Stories for Beginners which are two PowerPoint presentations about benefits of balancing omega 3 and omega 6 in the body. This is real eye-opening stuff!

The most interesting part is that I learned about eicosanoids for the first time. On the NIH web page about eicosanoids they state that "Eicosanoids are hormone like autacoids (auto=self, akos=healing) formed by body tissues during self-healing responses to stimuli. They are formed from tissue highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA) that we acquire only by eating essential fatty acids (EFA) in foods or supplements. The balance of dietary omega-3 and omega-6 EFA affects the balance of tissue HUFA and therefore the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 eicosanoid actions." Technical, but important stuff.

What it all comes down to is that we need to balance out intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Diet Balance--> Tissue Balance--> Eicosanoid Balance.

So, in the end hemp oil contains the omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs in the nutritionally optimal 1:3 ratio and hemp seed also contains the higher-potency omega derivatives GLA and SDA.

posted by Tom  # 7:20 PM
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