Smoking, Nicotine Addiction and Omega-3

Move aside, lozenges: new research suggests that Omega-3 may help tackle nicotine addiction as a promising stop-smoking aid. A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology has demonstrated that Omega-3 supplements reduce nicotine cravings and the number of cigarettes smoked per day.

Stoptober is over for another year; but for people with long-term ambitions to quit, can Omega-3 be added to the long list of smoking cessation aids? Gums, lozenges, patches and sprays provide nicotine therapy that has been shown to be effective in reducing smoking, and concurrently the levels of toxic chemicals released into the body. While tar and carbon monoxide are pin-up poisons, cigarette smoke in fact contains over 4000 chemicals, including multiple carcinogens. Avoiding these toxins while satisfying nicotine cravings helps smokers to become healthier and makes it easier to quit; but could Omega-3 oils address nicotine cravings directly?

lozenges

Omega-3 refers to omega-3 fatty acids, which are polyunsaturated and therefore help to reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol and promote cardiovascular health. Other benefits include brain-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties.  While omega-3 fatty acids are naturally found in many foods, synthetic Omega-3 is now manufactured on a large scale to provide relatively cheap, multi-purpose health supplements.

Omega 3 supplementsNow it seems we could add ‘stop-smoking aid’ to Omega-3’s many health claims. A double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial by researchers at the University of Haifa used 48 smokers with a ‘moderate nicotine dependency’. Half were given Omega-3, and half were given a placebo; the subjects took the supplements five times a day for 30 days, and were not asked to stop smoking at any point. At the beginning and end of the trial, subjects abstained from smoking for two hours, after which they were shown smoking-related images. A series of scales were then used to assess their nicotine craving and consumption, including measures such as anticipated satisfaction and relief after smoking.

The findings differed dramatically between the groups. While there was no difference in the placebo group, taking Omega-3 for 30 days caused a significant reduction in nicotine cravings and an 11% decrease in cigarette intake per day, even though participants had not been asked to cut down.

Cigarette smoke reduces the level of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain, causing a deficiency that makes it harder to deal with cigarette cravings, through interfering with neurotransmission to reinforce addiction and dependence. This novel study suggests that an Omega-3 supplement could help smokers regulate their addiction, providing a premise for further research into its use in smoking cessation. Potentially promising news for next Stoptober…and beyond.

 

 

 

Rabinovitz, S. (2014) Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on tobacco craving in cigarette smokers: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Journal of Psychopharmacology 28, 804. DOI: 10.1177/0269881114536477

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Veronica Wignall

Veronica is a Biology graduate from the University of Bristol, she is currently an editorial assistant but hopes to move into science media comms! Follow Veronica on Twitter @vronwig

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