A new study conducted by the University of Haifa in Israel says that taking omega-3 supplements reduces nicotine cravings. Researchers found that the supplement also helps in the reduction of cigarette consumption each day. Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar, who conducted the study, is the head of the addictions program at the school’s criminology department and the psychopharmacology laboratory at Bar-Ilan. Dr. Rabinovitz Shenkar said that, “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.”
Smoking cigarettes causes cardiovascular dysfunctions, immune system dysfunction, cancer, and significantly reduces the levels of essential fatty acids in the brain. These fatty acids are typically found in omega-3. If the body has a deficiency of omega-3, damage can occur to the cell structure of nerve cells. An interruption of neurotransmission of areas of the brain associated with feeling pleasure or dissatisfaction can occur with smoking. If the brain has trouble with these neurotransmitters then it is less likely to succeed in smoking cessation.
Dr. Rabinovitz Shenkar said that, “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.”
The study took forty eight smokers ages eighteen to forty five who smoked an average of fourteen cigarettes per day. The researchers deemed the participants as having a moderate dependency to nicotine. These participants were then divided into two groups. One group consumed omega-3 supplements donated by Solgar who produces“Omega-3 950”, and the second group received a placebo. Each participant was asked to consume 5 capsules per day for 30 days. The participants were never asked to stop their smoking habits.
The levels for nicotine cravings and consumption were measured by researchers at the beginning of the study, after thirty days, and thirty days after participants stopped consuming capsules. Researchers tested the participants two hours after they smoked a cigarette. They then showed them smoking related images to stimulate nicotine cravings.
The study found that after thirty days, the group who consumed the omega-3 capsules had reduced their cigarette consumption by an average of two cigarettes per day. This group also showed a decrease in nicotine cravings. The group that consumed the placebo showed little to no change in their nicotine consumption and cravings.
Researchers believe that further studies need to be conducted to find whether omega-3 is helpful in discontinuing cigarette use completely but Dr. Rabinovitiz Shekar believes the study does show that omega-3 supplements do help smokers reduce their consumption.
S. Rabinovitz. Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on tobacco craving in cigarette smokers: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2014; 28 (8): 804 DOI: 10.1177/0269881114536477
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