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BATTLE OF THE OMEGAS: Hemp Seed Oil vs. Fish Oil

We all wonder as to why several nutritionists and doctors insist on Omegas as an essential ingredient for our body. What really is the big deal with them?

Well, let's break it down for you...

Omegas are essential fatty acids, and as the name suggests, they're 'essential' for human functioning but unfortunately, our body is incapable of manufacturing them on its own. Which is why we rely on our diet for obtaining the same. Many people look out for food sources such as hemp, fish, nuts, etc. to obtain their omega fatty acids.

But wait, here's the problem. Surprisingly enough, its 'fish oil' that has now become a synonym for omegas. Let's be real, we're all either culprits or we know of people that have fish oil tablets stored in their cabinets and naturally we assume it to be the optimal source for our omega intake.

But is it really? Like always, we're here to challenge that belief and reveal to you some truths that may change your mind. 

So omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 (essential fatty acids or EFAs) are all important dietary fats. Interestingly, each one has a number of health benefits for your body. They are absolutely crucial for the proper functioning of the brain and lungs and are also vital for good skin and healthy blood.

Omega-3 fatty acids mainly are a key family of polyunsaturated fats. It's important to get the right balance of omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acids in your diet as they result in the proper functioning of your mental and physical health. 

But beware, because an imbalance can lead to a number of chronic diseases. 

For optimal health, an average human requires a 3:1 ratio of essential fatty acids. But when an imbalance occurs, where you have too much of one omega and too little of another, it can result in chronic health issues like inflammation and obesity. Unfortunately, an average human's present-day diet comprises mainly of too much omega-6 and too little omega-3, which leads to problems like high blood pressure, blood clots that can cause heart attack and stroke, weight gain, etc. to name a few.

So keeping in mind how important the 3:1 ratio is for our body (it's another in-depth topic for a different day), let's deep dive into how effective fish oil supplements are in helping us attain that balance. 

What is Fish Oil?

Fish oil is obtained from the tissue of “oily” fish such as sardines, salmon, tuna, anchovies, and contains omega-3 fatty acids. Interestingly, fish do not naturally manufacture omega-3 fatty acids but rather accumulate it in their tissues by eating other fish that have stored amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in their bodies.

Unfortunately, fish oil doesn’t contain the perfect balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids for the body in a balanced ratio of 3:1.

You see, this is where the problem lies. The source we rely on for our optimal omega intake is in itself imbalanced in its natural form. 

So we'll leave you to question how reliable and effective that really is for your health, or is it even reliable at all? 

Now, leaving aside the balance of omegas that we need, let's look at how healthy fish oil supplements really are.

Fish oil is extracted from the liver and skin of the fish, which means that it’s possible to ingest plastics and other toxins that the liver is processing. The fish also contains toxic substances due to biomagnification, and the concentration of pollutants can easily pass from one food chain link to another. Mercury, chlordane, dioxin, and PCBs are serious harmful toxins that can be potentially ingested by people who consume fish oil. Fish oil also produces peroxides that can cause severe gastrointestinal irritation.

So consuming fish oils and fish liver oils actually pose more of a risk for us rather than improving our health. 

Apart from that, a few more points to take into consideration are: 
1. Consuming high levels of oily fish also increases the chance of poisoning from pollutants in the ocean.
2. Omega-3 supplements affect blood clotting and interfere with drugs that target blood-clotting conditions.
3. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 70% of the world's fish are now exploited to such an extent that all the species of fish that are fished for food are predicted to be depleted in the next 30 years.
4. Minor gastrointestinal problems such as belching, indigestion, or diarrhea may be caused due to a trigger of side effects.
5. Those with a shellfish or fish allergy may be at risk if they consume fish oil supplements.

CONVERSELY, LET'S TALK ABOUT HEMP NOW...

To begin with, what is Hemp Seed Oil?

Hemp is a highly versatile plant and can be linked a long way to Ayurveda for its many benefits, such as its dynamic nutritional composition and medicinal properties. 

Hemp Seed Oil in particular is harvested and extracted by cold-pressing the seeds with wood, to preserve the natural benefits in its raw form. 

But what really sets hemp apart is, it is the only food that has Omega-6 & Omega-3 fatty acids in the ideal ratio our body needs (3:1).

Well, that's a gamechanger in itself.

Not just that, the hemp seeds are composed of nearly 85 percent essential fatty acids (EFAs) alone. 

Hemp also offers the richest, most balanced natural source of EFAs. In fact, the amount of alpha-linolenic and linolenic acid in 15 ml (one tablespoon) of Hemp Seed Oil provides more than the daily EFA requirement. In addition, the hemp seed oil is lower in saturated fatty acids than other comparable oils which makes it easily digestible. It is also known to alleviate symptoms of atopic dermatitis (eczema) and even psoriasis.

Another point being, Hemp Seed Oil is also a more sustainable choice for the environment. 

When you consume fish or fish oil supplements, it has a negative impact on the earth’s fragile ecosystem as overfishing plagues our oceans. 

Hemp seed oil is more sustainable than fish oil because it does not upset the ocean's ecosystems and fish oil reduces the sizable fish populations necessary to support fish living in the upper areas of the food chain. In addition, hemp plants are pest and disease resistant and help reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

In conclusion, which is better? Hemp Seed Oil or Fish Oil? 

Hemp seed oil is plant-based, cold-pressed, packaged, and stored appropriately as it does not oxidize or spoil as easily. Moreover, Fish Oil is perishable & can spoil very easily due to its unstable nature of highly unsaturated DHA and EPA. Many of the fish oil capsules in the market are actually rancid. Unfortunately, the less saturated the oil is, the more unstable it is, and the faster it degrades.

Hemp seed oil has also been used for thousands of years by various cultures for its traditional medicinal properties. It has the perfect balance of Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and Omega-6 linoleic acid and is more than 90% unsaturated. No single food has them all, but the hemp seed has all eight amino acids, and the oil pressed from the hemp seed is one of the best-known sources of the two essential fatty acids we cannot live without.

Therefore it's safe to say that hemp seed oil is a better and more sustainable option for our health, but also a more sustainable option for the environment as it helps reduce greenhouse gases and doesn’t disturb the ecosystem. It also doesn’t contain any harmful toxins but in turn, provides more nutritional benefits than fish oil.

So, the choice remains yours to make!