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Is Hemp Water a Ripoff?

Does hemp water get you high?

Hemp water might give you a sugar high, but that’s it. As with hemp protein, seeds, and other foods made from this plant, there is no THC or CBD in them. Technically there may be a trace amount, but it’s too little to influence cognitive ability.

If you turn to the number one seller of seeds, Nutiva, they report their foods as having less than 10 parts per million of THC. That’s 0.001% or lower.

On the website for this brand of hemp water it says:

“Hemp2o is an organic, herbal, vitamin beverage that does not contain the THC found in Marijuana, but hemp-seed extract. This natural oil is filled with essential nutrients that regulate mental health while also nourishing the body.”

That’s why seeds and beverages made from them are 100% legal in the United States for anyone to buy. They’re quite different than pot, as they have zero mind-altering effects.

Ingredients

So what is Hemp2o water good for?

Let’s review the benefits, starting with what’s inside…

When you ignore the added vitamins and minerals, it’s basically just water, sugar, “natural flavor” and hemp seed oil.

But how much hemp oil are you really getting?

They don’t say, but the nutrition facts label gives us a clue…

With a staggering 20g of sugar per serving (and two per bottle) it means you are drinking 40g of sugar and 160 calories total.

It is common knowledge in science that 1g of sugar = 4 calories.

Even Google knows that…

Both carbs and proteins are 4 calories per gram, while fats (i.e. pure oil) are higher.

1g of fat/oil = 9 calories.

Since the label lists 20g of sugar, to find the portion of calories coming from sugar, we multiply 20 times 4 and get 80 calories.

But wait, there’s only 80 calories per serving! That doesn’t leave room for more calories coming from fat/oil!

This suggests there’s very little hemp seed oil in the water. Not surprising, being that they list natural flavor and citric acid before they even get to the oil.

You are getting 25% of your daily value of vitamin C and 100% for niacin, B6, pantothenic acid (B5), and B12. As you can see on the ingredients label, those vitamins were added in separately and are not coming from the hemp. Is it really worth paying $2.99 for that?

Even at lower wholesale pricing, it still seems like a stupid purchase.

The Hemp2o variety pack has different flavors and from a look on their website, here’s the full list:

  • Grape
  • Pineapple Coconut
  • Raspberry Lime
  • Watermelon Strawberry
  • Passion Fruit
  • Strawberry

These flavors of hemp water likely taste great, because they’re very sweet. All of them list 20g of sugar per 80 calorie serving. While we can’t say for certain, this suggests that one type doesn’t have more or less hemp oil than another.

To further substantiate how little oil they’re using, check out their Hemp2O Zero.

It’s like Vitamin Water Zero, except Target was selling that for a buck a bottle, not $2.99 like this stuff.

Ingredients: Water, Organic Sugar, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Organic Fruit and Vegetable Juice (For Color), Malic Acid, Hemp Seed Oil, Stevia Extract, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Xanthan Gum, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12)

It’s not 100% sugar free.

The one gram of sugar listed actually equals 4 calories, however the FDA allows for labels to round down 1-4 calories and report them as 0. (1)

For fat, there is 0g listed. That would be where the calories from the hemp would show up.

Verdict

Adding trivial amounts of a superfood to something in order to capitalize on it is nothing new. Countless brands do so and they do so successfully. This hemp water appears no different.

Yes, it technically has a little of the seed oil in it, but mostly what you’re paying for is a bottle of sugar water with added vitamins.

Those vitamins can’t counter the unhealthy side effects 40g of sugar per bottle will bring you. That’s the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar!

Perhaps you could argue the zero calorie version is good for you, however the sugar-laden flavors are a nutritional trainwreck. They’re super bad for you, not superfood.

How to make hemp water

  • Take a bottle of water or filter some yourself
  • Squeeze a squirt of zero calorie and zero glycemic liquid monk fruit for sweetness.
  • Add a tablespoon of Nutiva organic hemp oil

Replace cap and shake vigorously. This is a much better alternative to waters with hemp that you can buy at stores.

At $2.99 a bottle, this is some expensive water that's trying to capitalize on the hemp craze. The ingredients and nutrition are a disaster.

All About Hemp

What is hemp?

OK, let’s get the Cheech and Chong jokes out of the way immediately.

Hemp is not marijuana.

Although hemp and marijuana are closely related, the hemp plant (botanical name Cannabis Sativa L.), is just one variety of many Cannabis strains (1).

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the active substance in pot that gets people high. Hemp crops used today for food and fabric don’t have much of this psychoactive component compared to their partytime cousins.

In Canada and the European Union, only varieties containing less than 0.3% THC in their flowers can legally be farmed, while marijuana flowers typically contain 3 to 20%.

In the U.S., debate over the threat of hemp farming to health and safety keeps the crops pretty much illegal. A license to grow crops can be obtained from the Drug Enforcement Administration, but it’s usually refused. (Ironically, the first U.S. flags were supposedly made from hemp fabric.)

Hemp products you find on the shelves today in the U.S. and Canada come from plants grown mostly in Canada, where farmers have been allowed to grow them since 1998 under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Hemp uses

Hemp is a versatile plant.

Its fibers, core, seeds and flowers can be used as raw materials to form products ranging from food to paper, and clothing to carpeting.

Hemp is an eco-friendly crop that rarely needs pesticide treatments for bugs or herbicides for weeds (1). Thus, consumers can be assured that hemp foods are low in chemical residues.

Also, many hemp companies certify that their plants contain no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and/or are grown organically.

Why is hemp so important?

Fatty acid profile

Hemp’s nutritional benefits derive largely from its fatty acid composition (2, 3).

The oil, which makes up half of the weight of the seeds, contains 75% essential fatty acids, of which:

  • about 20% are the omega-3, alpha-linoleic acid (ALA)
  • about 3% is gamma-linoleic acid (GLA)
  • about 1% of the rising omega-3 fatty acid star, stearidonic acid (SDA)

The unique ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 ensures that you can consume hemp without needing to balance it with any other food rich in fat.

The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of hemp oil is 3:1. This is a good ratio.

Most modern diets are an alarming 10:1, or more. High dietary omega-6s relative to omega-3s is associated with numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (4).

Hemp alone offers benefits that few other foods provide (5).

Vitamin E

Another “fat” property of hemp is that it contains a high content of naturally-occurring vitamin E compounds (tocotrienols and tocopherols) (1, 2, 3).

These free-radical scavenging antioxidants protect the oil from oxidation and rancidity.

Typical levels of vitamin E per 100 grams of hemp oil are about 100 to 150 mg. Therefore, one to two tablespoons of hemp oil meets the daily requirement of vitamin E for healthy adults (dietary reference intake or DRI: 15 mg/day).

Other hemp goodness

The oil of hemp also contains high concentrations of:

  • phytosterols, known to have beneficial effects on health;
  • chlorophyll, which is shown to be anti-carcinogenic;
  • carotenes, necessary for healthy eyesight and growth; and
  • lecithin, for cell-membrane composition and brain function (1).

New ways to bump up blood EPA levels: SDA

We usually focus on EPA and DHA fatty acids, found abundantly in cold-water fatty fish and seafood. These fats have numerous cardiovascular and metabolic benefits.

The other omega-3s, such as ALA, are often down-played because they don’t appear to have the same physiological properties as EPA and DHA.

Thus, fish oil is an increasingly popular supplement that people consider a staple of their health regimen. But, as we’ve pointed out here, fish sources are becoming depleted.

The omega-3 fatty acid SDA is now being recognized as another beneficial fat, and is considered a “pro-EPA” fat (6).

In other words, it converts to EPA. Indeed, when humans consume SDA, blood content of EPA in phospholipids can double (7, 8).

SDA is an intermediate in the omega-3 pathway from ALA to EPA (see below), but does not accumulate in blood lipids like ALA (9). So, this special omega-3 fat is converted completely to its downstream products, most importantly EPA (7, 9).

SDA can increase the overall blood omega-3 index, considered to be an important factor for cardiovascular disease (10).

Oils rich in SDA, such as hemp, provide a plant source of SDA.

GLA: Control your weight?

Gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, is another significant component of hemp (1–6%, depending on species of Cannibis).

GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that has impacts ranging from inflammation and vascular tone to initiation of contractions during childbirth.

GLA has been found to alleviate psoriasis, atopic eczema, and PMS, and may also benefit cardiovascular, psychiatric, and immunological disorders.

Aging and disease (diabetes, hypertension, etc.) have been shown to impair GLA metabolism, making dietary sources desirable.

GLA supplementation may be helpful for body weight regulation after significant weight loss (11).

Researchers studied obese women who lost a large amount of weight (

60 lbs) and provided them 890 mg of GLA from 5 g of borage oil (to give

1 g of GLA to each person), or a placebo (olive oil), for one year following weight loss.

The women not receiving the GLA regained over 16 lbs in the subsequent year. Those who received GLA only regained 4 lbs.

The proposed mechanisms for this effect include:

  1. Increased arachadonic acid (AA) levels in blood lipids due to GLA supplementation. Obese individuals and those with metabolic syndrome usually have lower AA levels in tissue lipids (12, 13). Further, increased AA in blood lipids is related to enhanced lipid sensitivity, down-regulation of lipogenesis (creation of new fat), up-regulation of lipid oxidation, and increased leptin secretion (10, 11).
  2. Conversion of GLA to its elongation product, DGLA, which has anti-inflammatory effects, via production of beneficial eicosanoids that may operate in weight gain suppression (11).

Hemp oil contains

450 mg of GLA per tablespoon. To achieve an intake of

1 g of GLA you need 2 tablespoons per day.

Although you can achieve the same dose of GLA with a smaller dose of borage or evening primrose oil, hemp oil is the only natural food oil that doesn’t require packing into supplement form. Also, it’s a higher-yielding crop that is much easier to cultivate.

Protein

Hemp seeds provide all essential amino acids. The seeds contain 25–35% protein, and some of the hemp protein products today contain as much as 70% protein per 100 grams – similar to whey protein isolate.

The protein in hemp comes from two high-quality storage proteins, edestin and albumin, which are easily digested.

When compared to soy protein isolate, the protein in hemp might actually be superior due to the higher content of some essential amino acids and methionine, cysteine and arginine (14).

Overall, the protein makeup of hemp is highly complete, highly absorbable, and hypoallergenic. It’s also a sustainable and earth-friendly source of amino acids.

Fiber

Hemp fibers are usually saved for production of durable fabrics and specialty papers, leaving the seeds as the food byproduct (1, 14).

Of the whole seeds, about 25% to 50% of the total carbohydrate content is fiber, both insoluble and soluble. Some brands of hemp protein powder even contain up to 14 grams of fiber per serving.

Theoretically, hemp food products could supply a person with all the fiber they need in one day.

What you should know about hemp

The green color of hemp oil, hemp butter, and hemp protein is due to the high content of chlorophyll within the mature seed that is not destroyed during low-temperature processing of hemp foods.

Although this chlorophyll can quicken auto-oxidation of oil exposed to light, as long as the oil is kept in a cold, dark container, this won’t be an issue.

Benefits of chlorophyll in food include protection against several types of cancers, including colon and breast (15). So, when you try your hemp products, know that green is good.

The fruit of hemp is not a true seed, but an “achene”, a tiny nut covered by a hard shell.

Whole hemp seed contains roughly 20-25% protein, 25-35% oil, 20-30% carbohydrates and 10-15% insoluble fiber (1), plus minerals like phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc (2). It’s also a source of carotene, a Vitamin A precursor.

What are the best uses for hemp oil?

Because of the highly unsaturated nature of the oil, it’s extremely sensitive to oxidative rancidity under heat and light. Don’t use the oil for baking or frying. Instead, use hemp as a healthy dipping oil, on salads, or added to smoothies.

What other food products are made from hemp?

The possibilities are endless. Here are some of the most popular food products that you can find readily available in stores today:

  • Hemp “milk” – An excellent substitute to rice, soy or cow’s milk. Use as you would on cereal, in smoothies, or straight up.
  • Hemp butter – Because it’s not made from a nut, it’s acceptable for those with tree nut allergies. Plus, it tastes great on toasted Ezekiel bread.
  • Hemp seeds – Wonderful addition to salads, or simply eaten as a snack.

Summary and recommendations

Hemp foods are under-appreciated, but carry so many health benefits. They’re an earth-friendly way to get more protein, healthy fats and fiber in your diet.

  • A tasty, organic, vegetarian/vegan food
  • Tolerable by those with nut allergies
  • Provides a wide array of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids
  • A way to bump up dietary fiber intake
  • A protein choice for smoothies and baking
  • Supports hemp growing for a healthier, happier planet

Extra credit

Due to the unique fatty acid profile of hemp, it has the power to treat atopic dermatitis in humans.

The seeds are small, soft and round, making them easy to chew and digest. They taste similar to a pine nut.

Hemp protein powder mixes well in water or juice and tastes good.

What’s a tasty hemp smoothie recipe I can make today?

Easy Berry-licious Hemp Smoothie

One scoop Hemp Pro 70

1 tbsp hemp seed oil

1/3 cup frozen mixed berries

Mix all ingredients in a blender, pour into a cup, and enjoy!

References

Hemp: A new crop with new uses for North America. p. 284–326. Small, E. and D. Marcus. 2002. In: J. Janick and A. Whipkey (eds.), Trends in new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-284.html

Hemp seed oil: A source of valuable essential fatty acids. Deferne, J.L. and D. W. Pate, 1996. Journal of the International Hemp Association 3(1): 1, 4-7.
Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Callaway JC. Euphytica. 140: 65-72, 2004.

The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Simopoulos AP. Exp Biol Med. 2008 Jun;233(6):674-88.

Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis. Callaway JC et al. J. Dermatol. Treat. 2005, 16, 87-94.

The synthesis and accumulation of stearidonic acid in transgenic plants: a novel source of ‘heart-healthy’ omega-3 fatty acids. Ruiz-López N et al. 2009 Sep;7(7):704-16

Dietary stearidonic acid is a long chain (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acid with potential health benefits. Whelan J. J Nutr. 2009 Jan;139(1):5-10.

Stearidonic acid-enriched soybean oil increased the omega-3 index, an emerging cardiovascular risk marker. Harris WS et al. Lipids. 2008 Sep;43(9):805-11.
Metabolism of stearidonic acid in human subjects: comparison with the metabolism of other n-3 fatty acids. James MJ, Ursin VM, Cleland LG. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 May;77(5):1140-5

Tissue omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio and risk for coronary artery disease. Harris WS, Assaad B, Poston WC. Am J Cardiol 2006;98:19i-26i
Gamma-linolenate reduces weight regain in formerly obese humans. Schirmer MA, Phinney SD. J. Nutr. 2007 Jun;137(6):1430-5.

Obesity and weight loss alter serum polyunsaturated lipids in humans. Phinney SD, Davis PG, Johnson SB, Holman RT. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:831-838
Erythrocyte Fatty Acid Composition and the Metabolic Syndrome: A National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute GOLDN Study. Edmond K. Kabagambe et al. Clinical Chemistry. 2008;54:154-162

Physicochemical and functional properties of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) protein isolate. Tang CH, Ten Z, Wang XS, Yang XQ. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Nov 15;54(23):8945-50

http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/15/4/717.full.pdf Heme and Chlorophyll Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer in the Netherlands Cohort Study. Balder HF et al. Cancer Epid. Biomarker Prev. 2006; 15(4): 7171-25.

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