They analyzed the makeup of oil extracted from
Cannabis sativa, often called industrial hemp, which is a cousin of
marijuana but with very low levels of the chemical in pot that
provides a high.
"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 told Reuters Health in an email.
Pierce is executive director of research at St. Boniface Hospital in
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He was not involved in the new study.
"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," write Maria Angeles Fernández-Arche, a
pharmacology researcher at the University of Seville, and her colleagues.
In addition to a 3,000-year track record in the manufacture of cloth
and paper, hemp has long history as a food and folk medicine, they
point out in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Hempseed is known to have high levels of vitamins A, C and E,
minerals and fiber, the researchers say. But they wanted to analyze
hempseed oil to better understand its potential for modern food and
Hempseed oil has a very interesting polyunsaturated fatty acid
composition, Fernández-Arche told Reuters Health in an email,
because it has an optimal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of about 3 to 1.
Her main area of research is natural products and the bioactive
compounds they contain.
The researchers examined the fatty acid profile of hempseed oil and
found that polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) made up about 75
percent of the oil. PUFAs include omega-6 and omega-3, the fatty
acids found in some meats as well as flax and fish oils.
The high amounts of one 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 authors write.
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Saturated fats and monounsaturated fatty acids each amounted to
about 12 percent of the oil.
A high ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fats has been linked to
reductions in cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis, so the
proportions seen in hemp oil have the potential to help prevent
heart disease, the researchers write.
They also detected plant chemicals, such as beta-sitosterol and
campesterol, which have been linked to lower heart attack risk, and
reduced LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). Sterols may also lower
inflammation and slow the progression of atherosclerosis, the team
He noted that hempseed oil contains less oleic acid than other
heart-healthy oils, such as olive or canola oil, but added that
studies on animals indicate hempseed might reduce the clotting of
blood platelets that lead to heart attacks.
Pierce thinks flaxseed oil has more health benefits than hempseed
oil. "In our animal experiments, flaxseed has shown more potent
cardiovascular effects than hempseed," he said.
"We have also shown significant blood pressure lowering effects of
flaxseed in human trials," he noted. (See Reuters Health article of
November 1, 2013, here: http://reut.rs/1ofMCnA).
But to be fair, he added, hempseed has not had similar trials
conducted in humans.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, online Jan. 15, 2014.
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