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Turn to Omega-3 fats to reduce smoking

Posted:  Thursday, November 13, 2014

Those trying to slowly cut back on smoking often face a tough time fighting off the cravings. A recent study has found that taking omega-3 supplements could reduce the cravings for nicotine and even reduce the number of cigarettes smoked per day.

This double blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study included 48 smokers with an average age of 29 years. They had been smoking for an average of 11 years and had moderate dependency on nicotine. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

The study population was divided into 2 groups, one received ‘Omega-3 950’ capsules, while the other received a placebo. Both the groups were asked to take five capsules a day for a month and were not advised against smoking throughout the study period. In total, the groups reported taking more than 94% of the capsules.

The levels of nicotine craving and consumption were checked using a series of scales covering different aspects of 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. The levels were checked at 3 points, before the study, after a month (during treatment) and after 2 months (a month post cessation of treatment). During the check, the researchers asked the participants to abstain from smoking for 2 hours and then exposed them to smoking-related cues to induce cravings.

The researchers found that both the groups did not report any changes at the beginning of the study, whereas after a month, those on omega-3 capsules reduced their cigarettes by an average of two a day and reported a significant reduction in nicotine craving. When checked after 2 months, the craving to smoke cigarettes increased slightly in the omega group but did not return to the baseline level. In contrast, the placebo group did not report any significant changes in their cravings or the number of cigarettes smoked a day post 2 months.

According to the researchers, smoking is associated with a reduction in the levels of essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids in the brain. Because of this reduction, the cellular structure of nerve cells is damaged and neurotransmission is interrupted, especially in the areas concerned with pleasure and satisfaction. These areas are important in reward and decision making, influencing the process of the development, maintenance and relapse of addiction and the inability to stop smoking.

Chronic exposure to smoke-related toxic products has been implicated to cause progressive pulmonary and immune dysfunction and even carcinogenesis. The encouraging findings of this study suggest a promising, safe and inexpensive alternative to other medications by which regular smokers could curb their addiction and cut down on the number of cigarettes smoked.

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