Food and Behaviour Research

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06 November 2014 - ScienceDaily - Omega-3 reduces smoking, study suggests

Taking omega-3 supplements reduces craving for nicotine and even reduces the number of cigarettes that people smoke a day, a new study suggests.

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

Please find the underpinning research here:

Rabinovitz 2014 - Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on tobacco craving in cigarette smokers

The substances and medications used currently to help people reduce and quit smoking are not very effective and cause adverse effects that are not easy to cope with. The findings of this study indicated that omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly," said Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar, head of the addictions program at the University of Haifa's school of criminology department and of the psychopharmacology laboratory at Bar-Ilan, who conducted this study.

Chronic exposure to smoke-derived toxicants is the primary cause of progressive pulmonary and immune dysfunctions, as well as carcinogenesis Cigarette smoking is connected not only to cardiovascular dysfunction, immune system dysfunction and cancer, it also reduces the levels of essential fatty acids in the brain, especially that of omega-3.

A deficiency in omega-3 damages the cellular structure of nerve cells and interrupts neurotransmission in areas of the brain involved with feeling pleasure and satisfaction
. These areas are essential in reward and decision-making, and are very important in the process of the development, maintenance and relapseof the addiction and to the inability to stop smoking. In simpler terms, omega-3 deficiency makes it harder for the smoker's body to deal with its craving for another cigarette.

"Earlier studies have proven that an imbalance in omega-3 is also related to mental health, depression and the ability to cope with pressure and stress. Pressure and stress, in turn, are associated with the urge to smoke. It is also known that stress and tension levels rise among people who quit smoking. Despite all this, the connection between all these factors had not been studied until now," Dr. Rabinovitz Shenkar said.

The current study adhered to a strict methodology (double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled) and included forty-eight smokers. The levels of nicotine craving and consumption were checked using a series of scales regarding various aspects related to smoking urges at the beginning of the study, after thirty days (of treatment) and after sixty days (i.e., thirty days after stopping to take the capsules).

The findings show that while no difference was found between the groups at the beginning of the study, after thirty days the smokers who had taken omega-3 reduced their cigarettes by an average of two a day (an eleven-percent decrease), even though they were not asked to change their smoking habits in any way. No less important, they showed a significant decrease in nicotine craving.