Think you’ve tried everything to quit smoking, but just couldn’t do it? Then you’ll want to read on. According to a new study, taking omega-3 supplements reduces craving for nicotine and even reduces the number of cigarettes you smoke a day.
“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.
Does ending addiction come down to essential fatty acids?
Chronic exposure to smoke-derived toxins is the primary cause of lung and immune dysfunctions, as well cancer. But researchers have discovered that cigarette smoking is connected not only to cardiovascular problems, immune system dysfunction and cancer, it also reduces the levels of essential fatty acids in the brain, especially that of omega-3. What science also learned is that a deficiency in omega-3 interrupts 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 development and relapse of the addiction and to the inability to stop smoking.
In other words, 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 study shows encouraging results
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The current study surveyed forty-eight smokers aged eighteen to forty-five who smoked at least ten cigarettes a day during the previous year, and an average of fourteen cigarettes a day. They were diagnosed as having a moderate dependency on nicotine. The average age of the participants was twenty-nine and the average age they began smoking was under eighteen.
The participants were divided into two groups: One group received omega-3 capsules; the second group received a placebo. The participants were asked to take five capsules a day for thirty days and aAt no stage in the study were the participants asked to stop smoking.
The levels of nicotine craving and consumption were examined through various aspects related to smoking urges, such as lack of control over tobacco use, anticipation of relief and satisfaction from smoking, and to the number of cigarettes smoked each day. These levels were measured at the beginning of the study, after thirty days (of treatment) and after sixty days (thirty days after stopping to take the capsules). Each time the study participants were tested they abstained from smoking for two hours and were then exposed to smoking-related images in order to stimulate their craving for nicotine.
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), despite the fact that they were not asked to change their smoking habits in any way. No less important, they showed a significant decrease in nicotine craving. After another thirty days of not taking anything, cigarette cravings increased slightly but still remained significantly lower than their initial level. In other words, the craving to smoke cigarettes did not return to the baseline level even a month after stopping the omega-3 supplement.
Meanwhile, the group receiving the placebo did not show any significant changes in their craving levels or in the number of cigarettes they smoked per day during the sixty days.
According to Dr. Rabinovitz Shenkar, the fact that people who were not interested in quitting smoking showed such a significant change reinforces the assumption that taking omega-3 can help smokers regulate their addiction and reduce their smoking. Further research will indicate whether the supplement is also effective in helping smokers ditch the habit entirely.