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Can vitamin supplements to help me quit smoking?

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Updated August 13, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Can vitamin supplements to help me quit smoking?
I'm having a hard time managing cravings and staying focused on my goal to quit smoking. I was told vitamin supplements could help me. Is that true?
Answer:

While there is little firm data to prove that vitamin supplements will directly assist with smoking cessation, some of the overall health benefits related to taking supplements may improve your chances for successfully quitting. And research does show that the nutritional status of smokers is poorer than that of non-smokers or ex-smokers, and in particular, that smokers have lower vitamin C levels -- one of the vitamins known to help the body repair the damage caused by cigarette smoking.

Which Vitamins to Take

Before you begin taking any supplements, talk about it with your doctor. Other medications or health considerations may affect the type of supplements or dosage you should take. Discuss whether a general multivitamin would be best or whether you should increase your intake of one or more specific vitamins. Some of the options to consider:

  • Multivitamins - Smoking is hard on the body. As with any addiction, a period of nutritional recovery can help you to regain your energy and good health, so you need to ensure you're getting the right balance of nutrients. The best way to do that is through a well-balanced diet. But eating right is not always easy, so for some people, a multivitamin is a good way to ensure you get the appropriate nutrients every day.
  • Vitamin B complex, niacin or B3 supplements -- Anecdotal reports indicate that these vitamins may help curb nicotine cravings and irritability, but there is no research data to prove these claims. If you are struggling severely with nicotine cravings, you might want to discuss with your doctor whether it is safe to try these supplements -- but remember that there are no "magic pills" that will make quitting easy.
  • Niacin - Niacin is chemically similar to nicotine. In fact, its name was changed from nicotinic acid to niacin to avoid confusion between the two substances. Again, no studies have proven that Niacin can help smokers quit, but there has been some speculation that niacin eases nicotine addiction. The theory is that the vitamin attaches to the niacin receptor sites in the brain (which are taken up by nicotine in smokers) in the same way that opiates take up the endorphin receptors in the brain in opiate addicts. Large doses of niacin can result in liver damage and other health complications, so you will need to talk with your physician before adding a supplement to your diet.

Sources:

Clarkes, R. "Niacin for Nicotine?" The Lancet, p. 936. April 26th 1980.

Evans, C. and Lacey, J. "Toxicity of Vitamins: Complications of a Health Movement." BMJ. 292:509-510. 22 February 1986.

Gariballa, S. and Forster, S. "Effects of Smoking on Nutrition Status and Response to Dietary Supplements During Acute Illness." Nutr Clin Pract24:84-90. 2009.

Griggs, R. "Nicotinic Acid." Science, p. 171. February 13th 1942.

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