Hemp Seed: Beneficial Effect of Hempseed Against High Cholesterol

Hemp Seed: Beneficial Effect of Hempseed Against High Cholesterol

Ameliorative effects of hempseed (Cannabis sativa) against hypercholesterolemia associated cardiovascular changes

Kaushal, S. Dhadwal, P. Kaur 

2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Hypercholesterolemia (HC) is the presence of high levels of cholesterol; it’s a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases that, in turn, are the major cause of mortality
  • In dogs, high cholesterol levels are rather common and underdiagnosed; it is uncommon for it to lead to heart diseases, but it does put pets at risk for a series of negative conditions
  • Hypercholesterolemia in dogs may lead to: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and distention, decreased appetite, anorexia, pancreatitis, fat deposit on the cornea or eye (which in turn lead to white patches on the surface of the eye, inflammation or even blindness), skin abnormalities (itching and hair loss) and seizure activity
  • In cats, HC can cause cutaneous lesions and peripheral neuropathies (nerve disease)
  • Hempseed is abundant in healthy fatty acids, proteins, fiber, vitamins and has an optimal ratio of omega 6:omega 3
  • The study put into evidence the antioxidant capacity of hempseed
  • The hempseed diet was able to decrease the levels of cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides and increase the HDL levels
  • In regard to the ameliorative effect of hempseed on hypercholesterolemia, the hempseed diet was able to reduce the aorta thickness (cause by a high fat diet), indicating that hempseed administration prevents the development of atherosclerotic changes as indicated by lesser intimal damage, lipid deposition, and and lesion surface area
  • Finally, hempseed demonstrated protection from certain pathological indicators of cardiovascular insults that were present in rats that were fed a high-fat diet
  • The anti-hypercholesterolemic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of hempseed were well documented in the current study and it therefore proposes the therapeutic potential of hemp in HC-associated diseases

 

OBJECTIVES & HYPOTHESIS → Hypercholesterolemia (HC) is the presence of high levels of cholesterol and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular (CV) diseases, that are the major cause of mortality worldwide. One of the approaches against HC-associated risk factors is the modulation of oxidative stress and commonly used drugs are directed at this. However, their use has been linked with increased risk of thrombosis, skin rashes, bleeding, headaches, gastrointestinal problems and risk of infarctions. Therefore, there is a growing interest in assessing the benefits of natural products as alternatives for treatment. In this regard, owing to an abundance of proteins, fiber and optimal ratios of omega 6:omega-3 in hempseed (HS), the study aimed to exploit its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to ameliorate HC-associated CV effects.

METHODS → The study used a high-fat diet (HFD) to induce hypercholesterolemia in rats. Hempseed (HS) was then added. Control rats were fed normal pellet diet for one month, HFD rats were fed HFD for one month, HS rats were fed on diet containing hempseed (10%) for one month, HFD + HEMP group animals were fed HFD diet supplemented with HS (10%) and HFD/ HEMP rats were fed HFD for one month followed by HS diet for an additional period of one month. After treatment, antioxidant capacity, lipid profiles, histological investigations, ultrastructural investigations, gene and protein expression of inflammatory markers and markers of oxidative stress were studied and correlated with ECG results and conductance across the aorta. 

RESULTS → The study was able to demonstrate a series of beneficial properties of the hempseed diet. Firstly, hempseed possesses free radical scavenging properties, as evidenced by the decay of free radicals with both the oil and protein fractions of hempseed. As a matter of fact, there are already a considerate number of studies supporting the antioxidant properties of hempseed. Secondly, it was also determined that hempseed ameliorates signs of hypercholesterolemia, measured by body weight, lipid profile and fatty depositions in the liver. A significant increase in body weight and severe fatty changes in the livers of rats was seen in the HFD group when compared to other groups. Livers of control and HS fed animals demonstrated normal morphology and no visible fat deposition. On the contrary, livers of rats in the HFD group appeared much enlarged and pale in appearance compared to HFD + HS, HFD/HS and control groups. 

Lipid profiles also showed statistically significant increases in the levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and HDL in the HFD group compared to the Control. HS, HFD + HS, and HFD/HS fed group, on the other hand, demonstrated an appreciable decrease in the levels of cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides and concomitant increase in HDL compared to HFD group signifying the ameliorative effect of HS on HC. 

Figure 1: Lipid profile in various study groups

Evaluation of the aorta (largest artery in the body) of the control and HS rats revealed a normal structure, while the aorta of hyperlipidemic rats in HFD groups revealed a marked increase in deposition of fat cells leading to an increase in thickness. The diet with HFD + HS and HFD/HS showed a significant reduction in aorta thickness and pronounced amelioration in comparison to hyperlipidemic subgroup, indicating that HS administration prevents the development of atherosclerotic changes as indicated by lesser intimal damage, lipid deposition, and and lesion surface area. The anti-hypercholesteremic effects of hempseed were once again proved by ECG analysis. ECG changes were observed in case of HFD when compared to other groups and these modifications are indicative of endothelial dysfunction and progression of atherosclerosis. Hempseed, however, demonstrated protection from such pathological indicators of CV insults. Finally, the study was capable of demonstrating that the optimum proportions of n3 and n6 PUFAs and high ALA content in HS can lead to increased formation of omega 3 fatty acids, which can prevent HC and atherosclerotic changes by keeping oxidative stress in check. 

In conclusion, the present study evidently demonstrates the anti-hypercholesterolemic effects of hempseed. Moreover, these findings support a profound anti-inflammatory and anti-hypercholesterolemic effect of hempseed, making it a potential therapeutic alternative for hypercholesterolemia and associated cardiovascular diseases. 


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