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Smoking is connected to cardiovascular and immune system dysfunction as well as cancer. It also reduces the levels of essential fatty acids, especially Omega-3, in the brain. This reduction of Omega-3 can damage the cellular structure of nerve cells and affects the part of the brain involved with feeling satisfaction and pleasure. These areas of the brain are important when it comes to decision making and rewards functionality, which are crucial in quitting smoking. With the Omega-3 deficiency it makes it harder for a smoker’s body in dealing with cravings for another cigarette.
“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,” says Dr. Rabinovitz Shenkar, head of the addictions program at the University of Haifa.
The study included 48 smokers between the ages of 18 and 45 who smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day during the past year, been diagnosed with having a moderate dependency on nicotine. These smokers have been smoking for an average of 11 years. The participants were then divided into two groups, with one receiving Omega-3 capsules and the second a placebo. They were asked to take five capsules a day for thirty days. At no stage were any of them asked to quit smoking or change their smoking habits.
Their nicotine cravings and consumption was checked by using a variety of measures regarding aspects related to smoking urges such as lack of control over tobacco use, number of cigarettes smoked a day and the anticipated relief and satisfaction from smoking. These levels were measured at the beginning of the study before the capsules were taken, measured again after the 30 days of taking the supplement and again at 60 days (30 days after stopping the supplement). At each testing they did not smoke for two hours before and then exposed to smoking-related cues in order to try stimulating their craving for nicotine.
What this study found was that at the beginning of the study there were no differences between the groups. After thirty days those that had taken the Omega-3 supplement reduced their cigarette intake by an average of two a day, an 11% decrease. They also showed a decrease in nicotine cravings. After the next 30 days without taking anything cigarette cravings increased slightly but still remained significantly lower than the initial levels at the beginning of the study. The other group who had taken the placebo showed no decrease at all in any regard over the 60 days.
The study highlights that even though people were not interested in stopping to smoke the changes observed from the study reinforces the assumptions that taking Omega-3 can help smokers regulate their smoking habits, reduce cravings and cigarette intake and with further research it could show that the supplement will also be effective in stopping to smoke all together.
“The substances and medications used currently to help people reduce and quit smoking are not very effective and cause adverse effects that are not easy to cope with. The findings of this study indicated that omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly,” says Shenkar.