Health scan: Fish-oil capsules can reduce smokers’ cravings for tobacco

A randomized study at the University of Haifa and Bar-Ilan University offers hope to those suffering from cigarette addiction.

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September 7, 2014 03:08
4 minute read.
No-Smoking Sign

No-Smoking Sign. (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)

Omega 3 – commonly available as clear-yellow capsules of fish oil – has been shown to reduce craving for tobacco in smokers. A double-blind, randomized study at the University of Haifa and Bar-Ilan University offers hope to those suffering from cigarette addiction.

The pilot study by Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz, head of the addiction program in the University of Haifa’s criminology department and of the psychopharmacology laboratory at Bar-Ilan, has just been published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

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She noted that cigarette smoke induces oxidative stress, which can cause disruptions in normal mechanisms of cellular signaling in the brain and is also involved in the development of cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, heart attacks and apparently autism and chronic fatigue syndrome, among others.

Although some studies on omega-3 and heart disease due to smoking have been carried out in recent years, Rabinovitz noted that no research to date has examined the effects of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation on tobacco craving. Low concentrations of omega-3 PUFAs can affect neurotransmission and affect reward and dependence mechanisms, thus they are believed to increase craving for cigarettes and make it more difficult to kick the habit.

Forty-eight smokers (of at least 10 cigarettes daily) aged 18 to 45 were given five capsules of omega-3 for a month; a control group got a placebo. The omega-3 group showed a significant decrease in reported daily smoking and in tobacco craving even though they were exposed to images of cigarettes.

They reduced their daily smoking rate by an average of two cigarettes even though they weren’t asked to cut down on their smoking.

Interestingly, the craving did not return to baseline values in the month that followed the discontinuation of the treatment. Further studies, Rabinovitz wrote, are needed on larger samples to explore the possible therapeutic implications for heavy smokers. There was no beneficial effect on those who received the harmless placebo.

Two years ago, Greek researchers assessed the effect of a month of omega-3 capsules on the arterial wall properties of cigarette smokers. The results showed that short-term treatment with omega-3 fatty acids improved arterial stiffness and moderated the acute smoking-induced reduction in elasticity of coronary arteries that is caused by smoking.

Rabinovitz noted that omega-3 capsules are inexpensive, almost without side effects and easy to get in any pharmacy or health food store. Tobacco not only harms heart-lung and immune system function but also reduces the levels of vital fatty acids in the brain, especially that of PUFAs. Low levels harm the cellular structure of nerve cells and the electrical transmissions of nerves and brain regions involved in satisfaction and enjoyment. These areas are also vital for decision-making of benefit and loss, and when there is an inadequate amount of PUFAs, the person loses the ability to stop smoking, and his addiction intensifies, she added. “From previous studies, we have learned that PUFA imbalance is connected with depression and the inability to cope with stress and pressure,” the researcher said.

JERUSALEM NURSE UPGRADE The Lev Academic Center-Jerusalem College of Technology, which has a highly successful nursing school for religious women (Machon Tal) and is now opening a fouryear nursing school for religious and haredi men, has signed a cooperation with Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Until this year, SZMC granted a registered nurses’ certificate to its women graduates after two-and-a-half years of study; they could become nurses after that, but to receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing, they had to continue to study in any of a variety of academic programs.

The new agreement makes it possible for SZMC nursing students to get their bachelor’s degree in nursing in cooperation with Machon Tal. This is beneficial for all sides, as the Council of Higher Education eventually wants all young nurses to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing to further upgrade the profession. The hospital will continue to offer a suitable environment and clinical studies for SZMC’s nursing students; those who want to become nurses after 2.5 years and earn a nursing certificate may continue if they wish in the hospital’s nursing school, which will also offer continuing education courses for registered nurses of both genders.

NAHARIYA HOSPITAL SUCCEEDS IN IVF Every general hospital in the country has wanted its own in-vitro fertilization unit, and nearly all of them have one. It brings in patients, income, professional challenges and prestige. Now, Nahariya’s Western Galilee Hospital, which opened its IVF unit recently, has announced the birth of its first two infants to two couples suffering from infertility.

One couple from the north are religious and waited many long years to become parents. Two days later, Kati and Maor Mizrahi of Nahariya rushed to the delivery room to have their baby. The couple had a six-year-old son but were unable to produce any more. Thanks to the stateowned hospital, Kati gave birth to a heathy 3.2-kilo baby boy. The happy mother said she was glad to have a hospital closeby, making it unnecessary to go to another city for fertility treatments.

Prof. Ya’acov Bornstein, head of the women’s health branch, said that he and hospital director Dr. Masad Barhoom struggled for years in Knesset committees and the government for permission to open an IVF unit at the hospital.

Top-level professionals and the latest in equipment was purchased, and the new babies were the happy result.


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