Cigarette smoking is without question one of the most difficult habits to break. That’s why the prevalence remain high, despite the fact that it is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. This knowledge has inspired a range of anti-smoking campaigns to be implemented over the last 20 years. As a result, public education has dramatically improved, and the prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased by 7% in the last 15 years.
Why is it so difficult to quit smoking?
Despite improved education about the dangers of smoking, the fact remains that this is a very difficult habit to break. In fact, approximately 70% of smokers express a desire to quit, and about 95% of those who join smoking cessation programs fail.
Although there are a variety of factors that challenge one’s ability to quit smoking, physical addiction is a primary contributor. Nicotine is the chemical component in cigarettes that causes physical addiction. When inhaled, nicotine stimulates dopamine and serotonin, also known as the “feel good” hormones, to be released. When dopamine levels begin to drop, the body starts craving another cigarette to elicit the same response. In time, the body builds a tolerance to nicotine. In other words, more nicotine will be required to induce the same response.
Currently, there are seven FDA approved medications to help decrease cravings. In addition, doctors and researchers continue to search for natural alternatives to support those attempting to break this habit, including fish oils supplementation.
The relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and brain health
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for a wide range of bodily functions. They are located in the membranes of all cells in the body, including the brain. Omega-3s are recognized for their ability to preserve cell membrane health, facilitate communication between brain cells, and decrease oxidative stress and neuro-inflammation.
Smoking has been shown to decrease serotonin levels in the body and reduce omega-3 concentration in the brain and blood. Since omega-3 fatty acids are responsible for serotonin functioning in the brain and reducing oxidative stress in the body, researchers recently decided to conduct a study to evaluate this relationship further.
New research on fish oil and smoking cessation
In a randomized, double-blind clinical trial, researchers aimed to determine whether omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves cigarette cravings and oxidative stress in heavy smokers. A total of 54 men who smoked at least 20 cigarettes per day were included in this trial.
The participants were randomly assigned to take either five capsules of fish oil supplements or a placebo daily for three months. The fish oils contained a total of 900 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid and 600 mg of docosahexanoic acid (two forms of omega-3 fatty acids).
The researchers evaluated the participant’s nicotine dependence and cigarette craving. In addition, the participants received a blood draw to determine oxidative stress and reported their smoking habits throughout the duration of the study.
What were the study’s findings?
Those who supplemented with fish oil supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids experienced a significant reduction in cigarette craving, nicotine dependence, and number of cigarettes smoked per day compared to the placebo group (p < 0.001). In addition, the omega-3 fatty acid group experienced a significant decrease in total oxidant status (p = 0.008) and oxidative stress (p = 0.011) after three months.
The researchers concluded:
“This study showed that high-dose omega-3 fatty acid supplementation appears to be useful in reducing cigarette craving and oxidative stress index in heavy-smoker males.”
Fish oils supplementation is showing to be an effective tool to decrease cigarette cravings and oxidative stress. Since omega-3 supplementation is considered safe and beneficial for a wide range of health outcomes, its essential to ensure your needs are being met.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained through the diet and oral supplementation. Dietary sources include fish, seafood, nuts and seeds, plant oils, and fortified foods. Recommended dosage ranges between 0.5g – 1.6g per day, depending on your age and pregnancy status.
The team at Aria offers a full protocol to help people quit smoking. We also carry a high quality, high potency omega-3 fatty acid that we recommend to our patients. Contact us to learn how we can help optimize your health, or stop by the office to pick up your fish oil supplement today!
Kiana Sadeghi-Ardekani, Mahmonir Haghighi, and Rasoul Zarrin. Effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cigarette craving and oxidative stress index in heavy-smoker males: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2018.