Hemp Oil vs. Fish Oil - The Differences Explained

by Dr. Nick Zyrowski August 02, 2021

Even though they are termed “essential” fatty acids (EFA), our body cannot produce omega 6 (linoleic acid: LA) and omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid: ALA) on its own. 

As a result, one needs to supplement it or consume it through their diet. And while considering EFA supplements, it is hard not to think about fish oil, the reigning king of readily available EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). However, in recent times, fish oil has landed in troubled waters, given that a whopping 70% of the world’s fishes are wholly exploited or depleted and are heading towards extinction.

Meanwhile, as the prohibition and persecution against the use of hemp become lax, it is slowly but gradually emerging as a sustainable and more attractive option for meeting your EFA goals. The fact that hemp contains 104% more polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) than fish oil tips the scale in its favor.

With options comes confusion and uncertainty. In essence, we are posed with the burning question:hemp oil vs. fish oil.Which one is better? And which one should you use?

Let’s take a look.

What is Hemp Oil?

hemp oil

As the name indicates, hemp oil or hemp seed oil is derived from hemp - seeds of theCannabis sativa plant. It contains little to no cannabidiol (CBD) and is devoid of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As a result, it does not trigger any psychoactive effects associated with otherCannabis sativa products. However, hemp oil does possess an impressive profile of various minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, bioactive compounds, and other nutrients that impart a host of health benefits. 

Benefits of Hemp Oil

Hemp oil is typically associated with the following health benefits:

  • The omega-3 present in hemp oil can support chronic inflammatory diseases and reduce discomfort (1).
  • Due to the omega-3 and omega-6 present in hemp oil, it can address several skin disorders, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, etc. (2)(3)(4)
  • It can also improve the skin’s barrier function by making it more resistant to fungal, bacterial, and viral infections (5).
  • The gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) present in hemp oil stimulates the secretion of prolactin and prostaglandin E1 (PGE1). Resultantly, it helps with mood management, especially during PMS and menopause (6)(7).
  • Hemp oil can reduce seizures accompanying conditions like epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

What is Fish Oil?

fish oil

Until recent times, fish oil was one of the leading dietary supplements consumed by individuals who wished to up their intake of healthy fats. Fish oil is essentially the fats or oil present in fish tissues. It is usually derived from oily fishes, such as tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and herring. Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3s and even contains traces of vitamins A and D.

Benefits of Fish Oil

Fish oil is generally associated with the following health benefits:

  • Improved cardiovascular health by regulating cholesterol levels, lowering triglycerides, regulating blood pressure, softening plaque, and averting fatal arrhythmia (8)(9)(10)(11)(12).
  • It may support the effective management of specific psychiatric disorders by supplying omega-3 fatty acids (13).
  • Supplementing fish oil, along with a balanced diet and regular exercise, can help manage weight and mitigate risks associated with obesity (14).
  • It can improve vision and support eye health by slowing down age-related macular degeneration (15). 
  • The anti-inflammatory properties present in fish oil can help alleviate the effects of inflammation (16).

Hemp Oil vs. Fish Oil: What are the Differences?

Here is a quick overview of the comparison betweenhemp oil vs. fish oil:

 

Hemp Oil

Fish Oil

Source

Derived from plants

Animal-based oil

Extraction Process

Cold-pressed from hempseeds

Fish oil is heat-treated

Taste

The light, earthy, and nutty taste

While fish oil itself may not have any remarkable taste, it leaves behind a fishy aftertaste.

Odor

In its purest state, hemp oil does not possess any distinct smell

It has an overpowering odor of seafood, which can permeate through your skin and cause bad breath

Fatty Oils

Rich in omegas 3 (ALA), 6 (GLA), and 9 (Oleic acid)

Rich in omega 3 (EPA and DHA) only

Stability

It contains antioxidants, which makes it more stable and inert

Can spoil quickly due to oxidation

Purity

Free from pesticides and tested for contaminants

It may contain mercury, heavy metals, plastic, or other pollutants pervasive in the sea.

Impact on Environment

Cultivation of hemp is sustainable and eco-friendly

Can upset aquatic ecosystem, primarily due to overfishing or unsustainable practices

Digestability

Less saturated, hence can be digested easily

Highly saturated, which could cause digestive distress

Side Effects

Has no significant side effect; at most, one may experience loose stools

Body odor, reflux, diarrhea, belching, rashes, and halitosis

Nutritional Uptake

Highly absorbable through ingestion or topical application

Limited absorbability, especially during topical application


From the comparison in the previous section, hemp oil emerges as a clear winner. 

In continuation, it is worth mentioning that hemp oil contains a few additional advantages over fish oil that may not have been tabulated above. 

For instance, hemp seed oil not only contains a more significant number of fatty acids, namely, omegas 3, 6, and 9, but it also contains them in higher concentrations and in the correct ratio (omega-6 is to omega-3 ratio must be 3:1 for optimal absorption). Thus, even the nature of the fatty acids available in hemp oil is far superior and digestible, and with a longer shelf-life.

Similarly, as a plant-based source, the hemp seed oil is rich in phytosterols, phenols, terpenes, amino acids (all 8 of them), and other bioactive compounds that can promote health and wellness by reducing oxidative stress. 

Thus, it is safe to say that hemp oil is better than fish oil in more ways than one.

Concluding Thoughts

As the stigma surrounding hemp oil begins to dissolve, consumers realize that it is a more value-loaded option. This proposition increases by many folds on the environmental front, especially in comparison to fish oil, leaving a far-reaching imprint on sea ecology. Plus, hemp oil is, in general, a healthier option in holistic ways. 

So make the safer and smarter choice with hemp seed oil.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3191260/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4151231/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16019622/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4134971/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6154611/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3033240/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21069097/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12351465/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21924882/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26817716/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22317966/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16267249/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20124114/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17490962/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23519529/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16841861/ 
Dr. Nick Zyrowski
Dr. Nick Zyrowski



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