Hemp is one of our
oldest and most versatile plants and has been documented as far back as the
28th century BC. Cannabis sativa, which is the Latin term for “useful Hemp”
has made a comeback in the food, construction and textile industries and
Canada is leading the way. The oil pressed from the Hemp seeds contains the
highest concentration of essential fatty acids (Omega 6, Omega 3 and GLA) of
any all natural plant source. In addition, the Hemp seed is also very high
in digestible protein. There is increasing scientific evidence that Omega 3
and Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids may play important roles in animals
with conditions such as pruritic skin disease, atopic dermatitis, allergies,
degenerative joint disease, neoplasia, thromboembolic disease and
eosinophilic granuloma complex. Hemp seed oil, as a supplement or ingredient
in dog and cat food is showing great promise. Furthermore, the
nutritional composition found in Hempseed meal is showing great promise as
an addition to both small and large animal feed.
The good fats in Hemp Seed
Oil is truly unique. Approximately 80% is polyunsaturated fat - the
highest of any vegetable oil. Specifically, it contains the Essential Fatty
Acids (EFAs) Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) and Alpha Linolenic Acid (Omega 3) in
an ideal ratio for absorption by the body. These EFAs, considered good fats,
cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be obtained from our
diets. Hemp seed oil also contains Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), from which
Omega 6 is naturally converted. Diets and sluggish enzyme
activity often impair this conversion and cause GLA deficiency. Hemp seed
oil solves this problem. No other single source oil has this ideal
combination of EFAs.
Omega 6 (Linoleic
and Omega 3 (Alpha Linolenic Acid) work together within the body. They are
converted via enzymes through a chain of events to produce prostaglandins.
There is increasing
scientific evidence that Omega 3 and Omega 6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
also play important roles in animals with conditions such as pruritic skin
disease, atopic dermatitis, allergies, degenerative joint disease, neoplasia,
thromboembolic disease and eosinophilic granuloma complex.
Studies to date have
been done using flax, evening primrose oil and fish oil with mixed results.
Study design has also been a problem with many lacking placebo control
groups. In general, studies using a combination of evening primrose and fish
oil (GLA and Omega 3) showed the most promising results. As we know, Omega 3
and 6 work in combination with in the body and an excess of one can lead to
a depletion of the other. This can occur with using fish or flax oil
exclusively. Long term supplementation with omega-3 may lead to a deficiency
of omega-6 and reduce the anti-inflammatory potential of Linoleic Acid and
its metabolites. Further, high doses of Omega 3 may also alter platelet
function to the extent that hemostasis is impaired with significant
increases in bleeding times. Likewise, excessive doses of omega-6 can lead
to a depletion of omega-3 and its beneficial effects.
This area deserves a
great deal of further research. Questions to be answered include: what is
the normal ratio of essential fatty acids stored within the body of the
animal and what is the ideal ratio of a supplement? What we do know is that
Omega 6 and Omega 3 are required by every cell for proper functioning. We
also know that Hemp contains a well-balanced ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 and
it also contains GLA.
The introduction of
polyunsaturated fats into pet food has developed considerable interest in
the last few years. The problem being that these fats are inherently
unstable and the food becomes rancid quite quickly. This is especially true
of flax. Some foods have used marine or fish products and here the problem
lies in potential heavy metal toxicity. Hemp would be an excellent addition
to pet food based on its high levels of antioxidants thereby providing a
natural preservative and a balanced omega-6 : omega-3 ratio. Another area of
interest is the protein in Hemp and this area deserves more research. As
noted previously the protein in Hemp is easily digested and could possibly
be an alternate or supplemental source of protein in the food.
Hemp seed cake can also
be used as feed for farm animals. “Omega 3” eggs have become immensely
popular in the supermarkets as individuals are striving for healthier diet
and Hemp is a viable alternative to flax in this area.
A further application
lies in blending the seed cake into the concentrate portion of large animal
Hemp seed cake was analyzed by an independent lab in New York
with the following results:
These results are very
amenable to blending into a concentrate. A further benefit is that Hemp is
grown without pesticides or herbicides and is not genetically modified (in
comparison to canola). Anecdotally, we know that the animals love the Hemp.
Pig, chicken and goat farmers in our area all report back that the animals
go “crazy” for the Hemp meal.
A final note is that
Hemp is now being used as hypoallergenic bedding in farms. This has great
potential in terms of double cropping.
Hemp Seed Oil and Hemp
Seed Cake (meal)
has great potential in the animal industry. Immediate applications include
the addition of Hemp meal and its protein into animal food/concentrates and
the oil as a supplement. Future areas of research and application need to
involve clinical trials and specific essential fatty acid research in the
Bauer, J.E., ” The
Potential for dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements in domestic
animals,” Aust. Vet. J.1994 71,342-345.
Bond, R., et al, ” A
double-blind comparison of olive oil and a combination of evening primrose
oil and fish oil in the management of canine atopy,” Vet Rec 1992 Dec
Bright et al, “The
effects of n-3 fatty acid supplementation on bleeding time, plasma fatty
acid composition, and in vitro platelet aggregation in cats,” J. Vet.
Internal Med 1994 8,247-252.
Campbell, K., et al, “Clinical use of fatty acid supplements in dogs,”
Veterinary Dermatology 1993 4,167-173.
Harvey, R.G. “Effect of varying proportions of evening primrose oil and fish
oil on cats with crusting dermatosis (military dermatitis),” Vet Rec 1993
Harvey, R.G. “A
blinded, placebo-controlled study of the efficacy of borage seed oil and
fish oil in the management of canine atopy,” Vet Rec 1999 Apr
T., et al, “The ACVD task force on canine atopic dermatitis (XXIII): are
essential fatty acids effective?” Vet Immunol Immunopathol 2001 Sept
Rees, C.A., et al,
“Effects of dietary flax seed and sunflower seed supplementation on normal
canine serum polyunsaturated fatty acids and skin and hair coat condition
scores”, Vet Dermatol. 2001 Apr 12(2):111-7.
V.A., Lipid metabolism, inflammatory mediator pathways, dietary intervention
with Omega 6 fatty acids, Proceedings of the 13th Veterinary Medical Forum,
American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, pp 456-460.