Alcohol and Nutrition (cont.)

Does alcohol contribute to vitamin and mineral deficiencies?

When alcohol replaces food, there can be numerous deficiencies caused by the lack of an adequate intake of nutrients. Nutritional deficiencies are common among alcoholics, but they can also be found in people who consume alcohol on a regular basis. The following are common deficiencies brought on by alcohol consumption:

  • Folate: Folate helps produce and maintain new cells. Alcohol interferes with dietary folate intake, folate absorption, transport of folate to necessary tissues, and the storage and release of folate by the liver.
  • Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is needed to help make DNA and to maintainhealthy nerve cells and red blood cells. Studies have shown that both moderate and heavy alcohol consumption will affect vitamin B12 levels. One study showed a 5% decrease in mean serum vitamin B12 concentrations when consumption of alcohol increased from 0 to 30 grams of alcohol/day.
  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A is needed for vision, to regulate the immune system, for bone growth, for reproduction, cell division, and differentiation. Alcohol has been found to promote a deficiency of vitamin A and also enhance its toxicity when taken in excessive amounts.
  • Calcium: Calcium is needed for blood vessel and muscle contraction and expansion, for the secretion of hormones and enzymes, and for transmission of messages through the nervous system. Alcohol consumption can cause a loss of calcium in the body by increasing urinary calcium excretion. Calcium deficiency can also lead to osteoporosis.

Numerous other deficiencies will occur when alcohol replaces nutrients in a balanced diet. The damage to your liver and other organs brought on by chronic, excessive alcohol consumption will cause severe problems that can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The long-term consequences of these deficiencies far outweigh the small amount of health benefits that have been found with alcohol consumption.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/31/2014


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