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Fish Oils Reduce Nicotine Cravings in Smokers

Update Date: Nov 11, 2014 02:31 PM EST

Fish oils could replace nicotine gums and e-cigarettes, according to a new study. New research reveals that the omega-3 supplements significantly reduce the desire for nicotine and even cuts the number of cigarettes people smoke a day, according to researchers at the University of Haifa.

"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," lead researcher Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar, head of the addictions program at the University of Haifa's school of criminology department and of the psychopharmacology laboratory at Bar-Ilan, said in a news release.

Previous studies reveal that long-term exposure to tobacco increases the risk of cancer, progressive pulmonary and immune dysfunctions as well as cardiovascular and immune conditions.

Rabinovitz Shenkar and her team noted that tobacco exposure also decreases the levels of essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 acids, in the brain. This is troublesome because not having enough omega-3 can seriously impair the structure of nerve cells and destroy neurotransmission in brain regions involved in feeling pleasure and satisfaction. Furthermore, these brain regions are important in reward and decision-making and are essential in the process of the development, maintenance and relapse of the addiction and smoking cessation.

In other words, omega-3 deficiency will make it if harder for smokers to quit.

"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," Rabinovitz Shenkar explained.

The findings are published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

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