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Can omega-3 fatty acids reduce smoking?

September 8, 2015

A new study from Israel suggests that taking omega-3 fatty acids supplements may reduce craving for nicotine and the number of cigarettes that people smoke a day.

The randomized controlled trial documented the smoking habits of 48 regular cigarette smokers who received a daily 2710 mg eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus 2040 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or a placebo for one month (1). The study results showed that the participants who took the omega-3 fatty acid supplement reduced their cigarettes by an average of two a day (an 11% decrease), even though they were not asked to change their smoking habits in any way. In addition, they showed a significant decrease in nicotine craving. The craving to smoke cigarettes did not return to the baseline level even a month after stopping to take the supplement. The group receiving the placebo did not show any significant changes in their craving levels or in the number of cigarettes they smoked a day during the sixty days.

The researchers commented that these findings indicate that omega-3 fatty acids may be inexpensive and easily available nutrients with almost no side effects to reduce smoking significantly. Chronic exposure to smoke-derived toxicants is the primary cause of progressive pulmonary and immune dysfunctions, as well as carcinogenesis. Cigarette smoking has been shown to be linked to cardiovascular dysfunction, immune system dysfunction and cancer, it also seems to reduce the levels of essential fatty acids in the brain, especially that of omega-3 fatty acids. A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can damage 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 relapse of the addiction and to the inability to stop smoking.

References

  1. Rabinovitz S. 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):804–809.