Omega-3 offers a lot of benefits for the body. A recent study published in the Journal of Psychoparmacology found out that it may have one very important benefit to offer; it may help cut down nicotine addiction and make the transition from being a smoker to a non-smoker much easier.
The World Health Organization included tobacco dependence in the public health priority list since it kills up to half of its users (6 million per year). These deaths are due to direct tobacco exposure (i.e smoke inhaled directly by smokers) and second hand smoke exposure. Smoking doesn't kill fast, its nasty effects can happen gradually.
In Australia, smoking related diseases have killed 14, 900 people from 2004 to 2005, according to Better Health Channel. This problem has cost Australian hospitals more than $600 million every year.
According to another study, smoking kills more men than women. Its most lethal effect is in the form of lung cancer; this cancer causes the most deaths in Australia out of any other.
Although there is a high percentage of Australians who have quit smoking, those who have grown heavily dependent on nicotine are struggling. Various techniques and programs are constantly being offered to help people quit for good, however, the process of regaining back health and pushing aside the ill effects of smoking after quitting is still a huge struggle for some.
The studies we mention may be able to offer some extra info about smoking, quitting and gaining back health.
According to the study by 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, omega-3, an inexpensive product, can significantly reduce smoking addiction.
The study conducted by researchers from Israel used a strict method which included double blind, randomized and placebo controlled products. The subjects studied were smokers of 18 to 45 years old and who have smoked at least 10 cigarettes in a day and an average of 14 cigarettes in a day. These people have moderate dependency on nicotine.
The study participants were divided into two groups. The first group received omega-3 capsules donated by a well-known brand while the second group was given a placebo. These groups were asked to take five capsules everyday for thirty days. All throughout the study, the participants were not asked to refrain from smoking.
Before the supplements were given, the group were checked and interviewed for their smoking urges, control over tobacco (or lack thereof), relief and satisfaction levels gained from smoking and number of cigarettes consumed each day. Each result was noted and recorded. After 30 days of treatment, the same information was collected, and again 30 days after the treatment had been completed.
Haifa study results
According to the study, there was no difference between the two groups prior to the research, however, after the treatment, those who took the omega-3 supplements had significantly reduced their smoking habits - they had cut two cigarettes a day on average, decreasing their cigarette intake per day by 11%. The study also found out that those who were given omega-3 also reduced their nicotine cravings.
30 days after the treatment was pulled out, the group who received omega-3 increased their smoking again but only by a small percentage. The result was still a bit lower than their initial cigarette consumption. Those who were in the placebo group did not show any indication of changes in any factors.
What the study told us and what we can infer from it
We know smoking is a very destructive habit that affects over-all health and wellbeing. Smoking and nicotine can reduce essential fatty acids in the brain. When this happens, brain cells will be damaged and proper brain functioning can be affected.
We already know from a previous study that a lack of fatty acids in the brain can lead to mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Due to this, the need and the urge to smoke is actually heightened, since tension levels rise and coping ability is hindered.
These findings, which have been all over the news this week, have gained a wide acceptance from medical experts.
"The findings of this study indicated that omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly," Dr. Shenkar said.
Dr. Shenkar has given us one thing to infer from the study - quitting may not be as expensive as everyone thinks, and there are healthy ways to do it. Given this data, many can start planning out their quitting strategy with the help of omega-3 supplements (fish oil, calamari oil, krill oil, etc).
Smoking and how Omega-3 can reduce its damage
Although there is a very strict methodology in the study above, it may still need supporting studies for further verification and acceptance. The study certainly is promising though, and it has opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities for the problem and for the benefits of omega-3 itself.
One example of a supporting study comes from the University of Athens Medical School in Greece, where it has been found that cigarette smokers may benefit from daily supplements of omega-3 in their diet.
The best way to protect health against the ill effects of smoking is to quit completely. However, these recent studies have created new opportunities for those who are deeply addicted to and dependent on nicotine already.
A daily dose of omega-3 for smokers may result in:
- Improved functioning of endothelial cells or the cells lining blood vessels
- Improved elastic properties of arteries
- Improved anti-inflammatory effect which is beneficial for arteries
- Better vascular compliance
It is already known that PUFAs help reduce the chances of suffering from heart attacks and may improve heart health. It can reduce the likelihood of stroke and thrombosis which are heightened by smoking.
The above findings were released after G. Siaos (et al) conducted a randomized, placebo controlled, cross trialed and double blind study.
20 smokers in total were asked to participate in the study. Each was randomly assigned to receive either the placebo or omega-3. The omega-3 supplement specification was at 2 grams per day, each capsule containing .92 grams of EPA and .76g of DHA. This supplementation was given for 12 weeks. A four week "wash out" period was then implemented and participants were crossed over to the other group.
The study found out that those who took omega-3 supplements had significant improvements in flow mediated dilation (FMD) or the measure of blood flow, vascular health, and their pulse wave velocity (PWV) or their measure of artery stiffness.
Smoking negatively affects both FMD and PWV conditions, but omega-3 helps in dulling the impairment and it even shows positive benefits in the levels of pro-inflammatory markers TNF-alpha and IL-6 among those who were given the omega-3 supplements.
This study was presented to the World Congress of Cardiology organized by the World Heart Federation in Dubai in 2012.
These findings strengthened the known fact that omega-3 has cardioprotective benefits and anti-clerotic effects. Both the artery related improvements in the study were precursors to other Cardiovascular diseases common in those who smoke.
Aside from this, omega-3 has been subject to several studies such as its role in nerve protection from injuries, brain volume and memory, sperm health and behavior correlations. All studies posed promising findings.
Not all omega-3 supplements are equal in beneficial properties. Since there is no clear idea as to which of the fatty acids in the omega-3 line may prove more beneficial (i.e. more EPA to DHA ratio or the other way around), it might be best to stick to the usual omega-3 supplement recommendation by doctors.
However, we now have more options for the source of our omega-3 intake; calamari, fish oil or krill oil. Other plant sources of this essential fatty acid are also available although marine sources are more recommended in terms of ready EFA and DHA (plant sourced omega-3 may need to be ingested and be transformed before it can be used by the body).
Other Ways to Quit Smoking
Some people really want to escape from the claws of nicotine, however, it is understood that it is never easy. Some medications can help but the natural way is, of course, the healthiest way. So aside from the mentioned omega-3 supplements, here are a few more tips to help you get by:
- Change diet. Red meat, caffeine and alcohol may make cigarettes seem more tempting. Instead, go for fruits, veggies and organic foods.
- Chew on low calorie candies.
- Exercise. It cancels out cravings and reduces the amount of situations that will push smokers to whip out another cigarette.
- Practice Tai Chi. It's helpful and calming.
- Quitting in a slow manner. Don't try to quit all at once. Little by little will be easier for you to maintain.
- Avoid hyped up supplements which claim to stop smoking. Like St. John's Worts.
- Get some social support. Those who are trying to quit can benefit from those who have done it successfully.
- Get your doctor's advice.
- Motivators. Ever seen those gross anti-smoking campaigns? They feature burnt lungs, rotten teeth, etc, and can be a motivator to stop.
- Get a mobile app for quitting smoking. They're out there, and they're very helpful.
- Try acupuncture.
- Make up your mind and be strong.
- And of course, try omega-3 supplements.
So, there you have it. Our beloved omega-3 and its benefits plus some extra helpful tips to quit smoking. Thinking of quitting? We hope this article helps. Let us know in the comments how your quitting journey is going.