Cigarette smoke induces oxidative stress with subsequent polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) peroxidation. Low concentrations of omega-3 PUFAs can affect neurotransmission, resulting in hypofunctioning of the mesocortical systems associated with reward and dependence mechanisms and thus may increase cigarette craving, hampering smoking cessation efforts.

PUFA deficiency, in particular eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5 n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6 n-3), has also been linked to reduced psychological health and ability to cope with stress. Although stress is well linked to smoking urges and behavior, no research to date has examined the effects of PUFA supplementation on tobacco craving.

In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study, performed in regular cigarette smokers (n=48), administration of 2710 mg EPA/day and 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 demonstrating that omega-3 PUFA supplementation reduces tobacco craving in regular smokers, compared to placebo treatment. Thus, omega-3 PUFAs may be of benefit in managing tobacco consumption.

Further studies are needed on larger samples to explore the possible therapeutic implications for heavy cigarette smokers.