Does alcohol cause nutritional deficiencies? (continued)
Vitamin B12 is needed to help make DNA, to maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells, and for protein metabolism. Low levels can cause a loss of balance, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, weakness, fatigue, constipation, confusion, depression, poor memory, soreness of the mouth or tongue, weight loss, and a type of anemia known as megaloblastic anemia. It is naturally found in animal products, including seafood, poultry, meat, eggs, and milk products. While plant foods don’t generally contain it, most breakfast cereals are fortified with it.
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.
The RDA for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg for men and women over 14 years old. A deficiency can be treated with injections when there are issues with being able to properly absorb this vitamin. Oral supplements have been shown to be effective with doses starting at 2,000 mcg daily, followed by a decrease to 1,000 mcg daily, then weekly and finally down to monthly. None of this is specifically for alcohol-induced deficiencies. The continued use of alcohol could alter the treatment needed. It’s best to consult with your physician if you suspect a deficiency.
Vitamin A is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins. It is needed for vision (especially night vision), to regulate the immune system, for bone growth, for reproduction, and for cell division and differentiation. The top food sources in the U.S. diet are fish, fortified cereals, and dairy products. Provitamin A sources are broccoli, carrots, squash, and cantaloupe. The RDA for vitamin A is 900 mcg for men over 18 years old and 700 mcg for women over 18 years old.
Alcohol has been found to promote a deficiency of vitamin A and also enhance its toxicity when taken in excessive amounts. Supplementation is not an easy thing because alcohol makes it difficult to detect the deficiency accurately. Because vitamin A is toxic in high doses, taking too much in the form of supplements can be dangerous. If this seems complicated, it is. You may be able to supplement with beta carotene (this is a precursor to vitamin A), but not if you are smoker as this may increase lung cancer risk in smokers. Moderation when consuming alcohol is really the only way to safely address this.
Calcium is most well-known for its roles in bone tissue. It is the most abundant mineral in the body with several roles, including blood vessel and muscle contraction and expansion, for the secretion of hormones and enzymes, and for transmission of messages through the nervous system. The richest sources of calcium are milk, yogurt, and cheese. While it is found in kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage, the calcium in there is not absorbed as well as it is from dairy foods.
Alcohol consumption can cause a loss of calcium in the body by increasing urinary calcium excretion. Calcium deficiency can also lead to osteoporosis. Research shows that continued heavy alcohol use, especially during adolescence and young adult years, can dramatically affect bone health and increases the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
The RDA for men aged 19-70 is 1,000 mg and 1,200 mg for 71 and over; the RDA for women aged 19-50 is 1,000 mg and it’s 1,200 mg for women aged 51 and over. Continued use of alcohol will continue to impair your calcium levels so supplementation may be beneficial.
Protein is made of amino acids. These amino acids help maintain the cell’s structure, they transport substances in and out of cells, and act as enzymes. Alcohol can interfere with amino acids being absorbed in the small intestines. In the case of chronic liver failure, protein metabolism is greatly altered and numerous complications can occur (decreased albumin, ascites, and increased risk of hepatic encephalopathy). The pancreas is also affected by chronic alcohol exposure, and impaired secretion of pancreatic enzymes with resulting malabsorption of fat and proteins commences long before other signs of chronic pancreatic damage can be found.
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 other vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The long-term consequences of these deficiencies can be life-threatening. Moderation remains the recommendation for alcohol consumption for a reason.
Do beverages with artificial sweeteners react with alcohol?
The low-carb-dieting craze has led to an increased consumption of diet beverages being used in mixed alcoholic drinks. Premixed alcoholic drinks were usually made with sugar-sweetened beverages like juice and soda. The presence of sugar was thought to decrease the rapidity with which alcohol would empty from the stomach and get absorbed in the small intestines, but nothing was known about how artificial sweeteners would impact the absorption of alcohol.
A recent study examined the difference in blood alcohol levels from drinks containing sweetened (regular) versus artificially sweetened (diet) beverages. This study found a significant difference in blood alcohol levels between the two drinks. In fact, the “diet” beverage produced blood alcohol levels that would be considered illegal for driving in many jurisdictions, while comparable quantities of the “regular” beverage did not. This poses a potentially dangerous situation, and it is clear that there should be separate guidelines for the safe consumption of artificially sweetened alcoholic beverages.
Quick GuideAlcohol Abuse: 12 Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking
How much alcohol can you safely consume?
If you choose to consume alcohol, you need to do so with the knowledge of how much is safe for you personally and not base it on what others around you are consuming. The guidelines have been established to help you set limits on how much you consume in order to possibly gain some health benefits while avoiding health issues. These guidelines are as follows:
For healthy men up to age 60,
no more than four drinks in a day and
no more than 14 drinks in a week
For healthy women (and healthy men over age 60),
no more than three drinks in a day and
no more than seven drinks in a week.
One standard drink is
12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol;
5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol;
1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol.
To get an even better idea of how many drinks you may be having, here is a list of the number of standard drinks you would get in each of these:
12 oz. = 1 standard drink
22 oz. = 2 standard drinks
16 oz. = 1.3 standard drinks
40 oz. = 3.3 standard drinks
a standard 750-mL (25-oz.) bottle = 5 standard drinks
Malt liquor (approximate number of standard drinks)
12 oz. = 1.5 standard drinks
22 oz. = 2.5 standard drinks
16 oz. = 2 standard drinks
40 oz. = 4.5 standard drinks
Going over the guidelines leaves you at risk for health complications and interferes with any possible health benefits you would gain. Moderation is the key here. Binge drinking and heavy drinking both fall into the dangerous category.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines binge drinking as drinking five or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men — in about two hours.
SAMHSA defines heavy drinking as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days in the past 30 days.
The reason that people consume alcohol is clear, but the cost of this consumption is not. Alcohol is toxic to our bodies, and the cost can be irreversible when intake exceeds recommended levels. The damage is not limited to alcoholics, so everyone who consumes alcohol needs to pay attention to how much they are drinking, what they are drinking, and when they are doing so.
Does alcohol cause nutritional deficiencies? (continued)