Vitamins may help smokers quit – new research

27 September 2018

New research by University of Canterbury psychologists shows that minerals and vitamins may help to reduce cigarette consumption and promote successful quitting.

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    UC Psychology doctoral student Phillipa Reihana’s research shows a nutritional supplement may help smokers quit.

New research by University of Canterbury (UC) psychologists shows that minerals and vitamins may help to reduce cigarette consumption and promote successful quitting.

This study is the first known randomised controlled trial investigating the impact of a mineral-vitamin formula for smoking cessation and reduction of cigarette use.

This study by UC Psychology doctoral student Phillipa Reihana, Professor Neville Blampied, and Professor Julia Rucklidge, of UC Psychology in the College of Science, published recently in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, supports the use of micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) as a safe, readily available option to promote successful quitting and reduced cigarette use.

The UC researchers believe that micronutrients are comparable to other smoking cessation treatments (e.g., drugs of various kinds) but with fewer side effects, with 28% of the micronutrient group achieving abstinence for 12 weeks versus 18% of the placebo group.

“Micronutrients are being increasingly studied for the treatment of psychiatric conditions, but directly using micronutrients as a treatment for addictions is novel,” Mrs Reihana says.

“There is extensive evidence that micronutrients alleviate stress. Given that tobacco smoking is often used to cope with stress, taking micronutrients may moderate the stress of withdrawal and increase the chance of a successful quit attempt.”

Furthermore, those taking micronutrients reported reduced consumption of cigarettes per day, notably in the four weeks prior to quitting (when participants attempted to cut down) and at four weeks after their quit date.

The researchers conclude that the study supports the use of micronutrients as a safe, readily available option to take before and during a quit attempt to potentially increase the likelihood of success.

“This and future research in this field may support Aotearoa New Zealand to reach the goal that fewer than 5% of New Zealanders will be smokers by 2025,” Mrs Reihana says.

This study is the first known randomised controlled trial investigating the impact of a mineral-vitamin formula for smoking cessation and reduction of cigarette use anywhere in the world. Importantly, there was a placebo control group, participants (107 in total) were randomly assigned to receive micronutrients or a placebo, there were a substantial number of Māori participants (22%), and the participants and investigators remained blind to the assigned condition until the research ended.

Professor Rucklidge notes that there are some limitations to the study.

“The sample size was relatively small and there were many dropouts during the study. Replication by an independent research group is highly desirable,” Professor Rucklidge says.

Quitting smoking is among the most important health promoting changes a person can make, and is the most cost-effective disease prevention intervention available. Despite the benefits, many smokers have difficulty quitting and the incidence of smoking relapse is high, with many smokers failing even 24 hours of continuous abstinence after their quit date. Finding better ways to help smokers to quit has been identified by the Ministry of Health as a key to achieving this goal. Smokers need help first to quit successfully and then to remain smokefree despite the challenges of withdrawal symptoms, relapse, stress, and social pressure to continue smoking.

‘Novel Mineral-Vitamin Treatment for Reduction in Cigarette Smoking: A Fully Blinded Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial’, authors: Phillipa K Reihana, Neville M Blampied, Julia J Rucklidge, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, nty168, https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/nty168

For further information please contact:

Margaret Agnew, Senior External Relations Advisor, University of Canterbury
Phone: +64 3 369 3631 | Mobile: +64 275 030 168margaret.agnew@canterbury.ac.nz
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