Omega-3 supplementation may help in quitting smoking


Smoking causes 87% of lung cancer deaths and is also responsible for many other cancers and health problems: lung, heart and blood vessel diseases, stroke and cataracts, among others. At least 60 of the chemical agents of cigarette smoke cause cancer, but nicotine is the only substance in cigarettes that generates dependence. Nicotine reaches the brain in 30 seconds and there it stimulates the release of chemical substances that create feelings of pleasure; but these feelings do not last longer than 30 minutes, after which the smoker feels depressed and tired, what leads them to light up the next cigarette. Since the body develops tolerance to nicotine, smokers gradually smoke more and more in order to get the same “good” feeling. This is how addiction works.

All the pharmacological treatments available for smoking cessation are associated with side effects and low efficacy, but supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids could be a new option. Low levels of omega-3 can affect the dopaminergic neurotransmission, resulting in hypofunctioning of the mesocortical system. This system controls the mesolimbic system, associated in rewarding and dependence mechanisms. Thus, low levels of omega-3 may increase cigarette craving, hampering smoking cessation efforts, and the reestablishment of the omega-3 levels would result in the normalization of the dopaminergic system and the reduction of the negative symptoms of withdrawal (e.g. irritability and anxiety). Furthermore, omega-3 deficiency has also been linked to reduced ability to cope with stress, whose links with smoking urges and behavior are well established.

In a recent study, performed in regular cigarette smokers, administration of 2710 mg EPA + 2040 mg DHA/day for one month was accompanied by a significant decrease in reported daily smoking and in tobacco craving following cigarette cue exposure. Craving did not return to baseline values in the month that followed treatment discontinuation.

This is the first study showing that omega-3 supplementation reduces tobacco craving in regular smokers. Therefore, omega-3 supplementation may help in quitting smoking.




Omega-3 and secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke is the exposition to environmental tobacco smoke: the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Secondhand sm[...]