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Hemp Seeds: Health Benefits or Hype?

author image Clay McNight
Clay McNight is currently a nutrition writer with Demand Media Studios.
Hemp Seeds: Health Benefits or Hype?
A large bowl of hemp seeds. Photo Credit: bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images

The seed of the hemp plant is a highly versatile and nutrient-rich food that can be used to make a variety of products. Hemp seeds are especially noted for their high concentrations of omega fatty acids, which can help prevent heat disease and promote overall health. In addition, hemp seeds can be used to formulate high-quality protein supplements, for those who do not eat animal products.

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Hemp Seed Oil for Heart Health and Immune Function

Hemp seeds are used to make hemp seed oil - a product with a number of "interesting substances," according to a 2014 report published by the American Chemical Society. These substances include sterols, which can improve immune function and help control cholesterol levels, according to Dr. Julian Whitaker and linoleic acids which possess heart-healthy benefits. A 2010 article published in "Nutrition and Metabolism" also noted that the excellent concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in hemp seed oil have the potential to beneficially influence heart disease and improve overall health.

Hemp Seed Oil for Skin Conditions

The benefits of hemp seed oil extend beyond heart health. A 2005 study published in the "Journal of Dermatological Treatment" noted that the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids make hemp seed oil useful in treating symptoms of atopic dermatitis -- a skin disorder that involves scaly and itchy rashes. The trial, conducted over a 20 week period, found that patients who used hemp seed oil experienced significant improvements in atopic dermatitis symptoms, including skin dryness and itchiness.

Hemp Seed Protein - A High Quality Protein Source

One of the most common uses of hemp seed is to produce protein powder supplements. For vegans and others who avoid animal and animal products, hemp is a great alternative because it contains very high quality protein. The quality of a protein is based on the concentration of its amino acids. Proteins with more complete amino acid profiles are digested and used more efficiently by the body. A 2010 study published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" found that hemp seed protein contained a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid, or PDCAA, score -- a score determining the quality and digestibility of a given protein source -- greater or equal to many other vegan protein sources including grains, nuts and certain legumes.

Hemp Seed Protein for Immune Function and Anti fatigue

The health benefits of hemp seeds do not end with their omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Hemp seed protein may have additional health benefits, including immune boosting and anti-fatigue effects. A 2008 study published in "Wei Sheng Yan Jiu" demonstrated these findings in an animal trial. The study found that hemp seed protein had positive effects on the immune function of mice and an anti-fatigue effect, which allowed the mice to swim longer.

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