Science Update

A new study suggests omega-3 supplementation may help manage tobacco consumption

According to a new study taking omega-3 supplements may help reduce cravings for nicotine and even the number of cigarettes people smoke per day. Current medications that are being used to help people stop smoking are not very effective and cause adverse effects. Omega-3 supplements are an easy safe and inexpensive way to reduce smoking according to Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar who headed up this study.

Cigarette smoking is associated with cardiovascular conditions immune issues and cancer and it also reduces the concentrations of essential fatty acids in the brain especially omega-3 fatty acids. An omega-3 deficiency damages nerve cells and interrupts the communication in regions of the brain that are involved with pleasure and satisfaction. These areas are crucial in reward and decision-making and for the potential risk of relapse and the inability to stop smoking. Thus an omega-3 deficiency may make it harder for smokers to overcome their cigarette cravings. Other studies have demonstrated that an imbalance in omega-3s is related to mental health stress and depression which in turn are associated with the urge to smoke. It has also been shown that stress levels rise in people who have quit smoking. The connection between all these factors had not been studied until now.

This study looked at 48 adult smokers who were diagnosed as having a moderate dependency on nicotine each having smoked a minimum of 10 cigarettes a day during the previous year and an average of 14 cigarettes a day. The participants were divided into two groups where one group received 2710 mg EPA/day and 2040 mg DHA/day for one month while the second group received a placebo. During that period of time the participants were never asked to stop smoking.

After 30 days the results showed that the smokers who had taken omega-3s reduced their total cigarettes smoked by an average of two a day without being prompted to change their smoking habits. In addition they showed a significant decrease in their nicotine craving. In the month that followed (where omega-3 supplementation was discontinued) cigarette cravings increased slightly but still did not return to their baseline values. The placebo group however did not show any significant changes in their craving levels or in the number of cigarettes smoked during the entire sixty days.

These findings demonstrated that smokers who were not even trying to quit their nicotine habit showed a significant change reinforcing the assumption omega-3s can help smokers to regulate their addiction and decrease their frequency of smoking.

Source: 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