Omega-3s Help You Quit Smoking Faster

Quitting is hard, but this healthy supplement may help you give up cigarettes faster.

November 10, 2014
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There's a new natural tactic to help you quit smoking, and it'll also help your brain and heart—without any side effects. This isn't a pitch for a drug, it's the truth about omega-3s, according to research from the University of Haifa, Israel.

More: The Supplement Everyone Needs to Take

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The researchers investigated how omega-3 supplements impacted smokers, defined as people who smoked an average of 14 cigarettes a day and who had been smoking for an average of 11 years. Those on a 30-day omega-3 supplement regimen enjoyed an 11 percent decrease in number of cigarettes smoked. They also experienced a significant decrease in nicotine cravings.

Even more impressive? Thirty days after the participants stopped taking the supplements, their nicotine cravings stayed lower than what they were at the beginning of the study.

And here's the real surprise: No one was actively trying to quit smoking.

More: Quit SmokingDitch Your Nicotine Patch

"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," says Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar, PhD, head of the addictions program at the University of Haifa's school of criminology department and of the psychopharmacology laboratory. "The findings of this study indicated that omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly."

Shenkar attributes these findings to the fact that smoking reduces the levels of omega-3s in the brain, a deficiency, which interrupts the neurotransmitters that communicate feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, meaning you feel cravings.

More: Health Risks of Smoking Start with Just a Few Puffs

"[Omega-3s] may impact or normalize dopamine transmission, which also could reduce the feeling of reward and dependence, but this data is far more preliminary," says Mark Moyad, MD, author of The Supplement Handbook. "However, it has been known that in some folks omega-3 can improve neurotransmission in the brain or normalize it which is why it has helped in some cases with depression or mood."

 

Another supplement that may help you quit is n-acetylcysteine (NAC). "NAC may discourage the craving and reward sensations of certain addictions," Dr. Moyad. says He points out that preliminary research shows taking 3,600 milligrams daily of NAC led to decreased feelings of reward when quitting smokers relapsed. Keep in mind that this was a clinical study. Always follow the dosage information on the package or given by your doctor.

In fact, adding NAC to prescription smoking-quitting meds may be more effective than just the medication alone. "This needs further work but is fabulous research," Dr. Moyad notes. "NAC restores what is known as 'glutamate signaling' in the brain which could reduce feelings of rewarding feelings (aka don't feel that euphoria or 'fix') because this signaling gets disrupted with addictions."