Omega-3 fatty acids are known to benefit many parts of the body, including the eyes, brain, heart, and joints. It can be acquired by eating fish, omega-3 supplements, certain vegetables, grains, and nuts. While there have been many studies of the beneficial effects of consuming omega-3 fatty acids, one of the newest studies shows that omega-3 consumption may help in an unexpected way: reduce addiction to nicotine.
The harmful effects of smoking are not only contained to the lungs; new research indicates that it may also lowers the amount of omega-3 in the brain. If smoking reduces the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain, would reintroducing supplementary omega-3 fatty acids modify the addictive potential of nicotine? A team at the University of Haifa set out to test this theory. “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,” said Dr. Rabinovitz Shenkar, who led the study.
The experiment was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study and consisted of 48 people between the ages of 18 and 45 who smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day. The study was carried out for 60 days and all participants were separated into two groups. During the first 30 days, one group took Solgar’s 3 – 950 mg fish oil and the other group took placebo capsules. Everyone was instructed to take five capsules per day during the first 30 days and both groups did not take capsules during the last 30 days. None of the individuals were instructed to quit smoking.
Factors that were measured throughout the study were “smoking urges, such as lack of control over tobacco use, anticipation of relief and satisfaction from smoking” and “the number of cigarettes smoked each day.” After the first 30 days of taking capsules, the group who had taken omega-3 capsules reported a reduction of 2 cigarettes per day, which equates to an approximate 11% decrease. After the last 30 days, they reported increased cigarette cravings, although less intense than the initial cravings noted at the study’s start. The group who had taken the placebo capsules did not show significant changes in their cravings.
This study showed that omega-3 fatty acids have the ability to substantially impact and reduce nicotine cravings and that its impact on nicotine addiction should be further studied as a preventive measure against smoking. For the time being, however, fish oil (either as a supplement or from whole fish) could prove to be a good option for those who are trying to control their smoking habits and better their health.
- Co-author: Shoua Kue
- Co-author: Pasha Gurevich
- Omega-3 Reduces Smoking Cravings – ScienceDaily, quoting University of Haifa
- Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Tobacco Craving in Cigarette Smokers: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study – Journal of Psychopharmacology
- Fish Oil – MedlinePlus, of the National Institutes of Health