In the future, cigarette smokers hoping to quit may trash the patch and go for fish oil pills instead. A new Israeli pilot study suggests a daily dose of omega-3 quells the craving for nicotine, and helps addicts put out their smokes for good.
Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz, head of the addiction program in the University of Haifa’s criminology department and of the psychopharmacology laboratory at Bar-Ilan University, conducted the study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and noted in the Jerusalem Post.
Rabinovitz and her team gave 48 smokers between the ages of 18 to 45 who smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day five capsules of omega-3s for a month. A control group of smokers took a placebo.
Even though subjects were exposed to images of cigarettes, the smokers who took omega-3s showed a significant decrease in reported daily smoking and in tobacco craving. They cut down their daily smoking by two cigarettes—even though they weren’t asked to.
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Interestingly, the craving did not return to baseline values in the month that followed, even after the subjects stopped taking the omega-3s.
Low levels of omega-3 PUFAs can affect neurotransmission, and that cigarette smoking can reduce levels of those acids. “From previous studies, we have learned that PUFA imbalance is connected with depression and the inability to cope with stress and pressure,” Rabinovitz told the Post.
“This is the first study demonstrating that omega-3 PUFA supplementation reduces tobacco craving in regular smokers, compared to placebo treatment,” she wrote her abstract. “Thus, omega-3 PUFAs may be of benefit in managing tobacco consumption. Further studies are needed on larger samples to explore the possible therapeutic implications for heavy cigarette smokers.”
For those potentially former-smokers who may live longer since kicking butts, a high level of omega-3s could produce further benefits. A study earlier this year suggested people with higher levels of omega-3s were also found to have larger brains in old age, the equivalent of preserving one or two years of brain health.