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Fish oil reduces smoking, Israeli study suggests

Haifa University researcher finds that omega-3 capsules help smokers minimize habit

Omega-3 capsules (photo credit: Omega-3 via Shutterstock)
Omega-3 capsules (photo credit: Omega-3 via Shutterstock)

Omega-3 supplements help reduce the number of cigarettes that addicts smoke in a given day, a new Israeli study found.

The study, conducted by Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar of the University of Haifa, indicated that the fish oil capsules significantly reduced nicotine craving and helped participants cut down their cigarette consumption by at least 11 percent.

According to Rabinovitz Shenkar, head of the addictions program at the University of Haifa’s School of Criminology, current medications used to help quit smoking are not effective and carry adverse effects.

“Omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly,” Rabinovitz Shenkar said in the study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Smoke-derived toxicants greatly reduce the level of essential fatty acids in the brain, particularly omega-3, damaging areas of the brain involved with pleasure and satisfaction.

Damage in these areas of the brain is directly related to the inability to stop smoking.

“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,” Rabinovitz Shenkar said.

“It is also known that stress and tension levels rise among people who quit smoking,” the Israeli researcher said, adding that despite the findings, the connection between these factors has not been studied thus far.

Forty-eight smokers aged 18 to 45 who smoked an average of 14 cigarettes a day participated in the study. They were divided into two groups, one given omega-3 capsules containing omega-3 950, and the other received a placebo. The participants were asked to take 5 capsules a day for 30 days, and at no point were they asked to stop smoking.

After 30 days, smokers who received the omega-3 capsules were found to have cut down their cigarette intake by an average of two a day (roughly 115 in total), also displaying a significant decrease in nicotine craving.

In contrast, the group receiving the placebo showed no significant changes in their craving levels, and did not reduce the number of cigarettes they smoked a day.

Rabinovitz Shenkar added that further research will indicate whether the supplement can effectively help smokers quit altogether.

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