Alcoholism And Malnutrition – A Consequence Of Too Much Drinking

Alcoholism and malnutrition is a combination of events that occurs due to the poor diet of alcoholics, in spite of food being plentiful in certain societies and being fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Poor nutrition occurs among alcoholics due to a combination of poor diet and alcohol toxicity. Alcohol toxicity leads to diarrhea, malabsorption, liver malfunction, gastrointestinal bleeding, hormonal changes and changes in bone marrow, all of which leads to malnutrition, and the more alcoholics drink the worse the malnutrition gets.

As a result of alcoholism an alcoholic will experience poor diet, vitamin deficiencies, and mineral deficiencies, altered processing of macronutrients, and increased body weight.

Reasons for Poor Diet

The quality of the diet of alcoholics decreases with an increase in the quantity of alcohol consumed, but as alcoholics increase the frequency of their drinking bouts and decrease the quantity of alcohol that they drink, the quality of the diet improves.

Some of the factors that contribute to alcoholics having a poor diet are poverty, no cooking facilities, and homelessness. Some characteristics that lead to a loss of appetite are anxiety, depression, loneliness, physical isolation, and physical pain from health related issues.

Presence of Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin deficiencies among alcoholics result from an inadequate intake of vitamins, poor vitamin absorption, and increased destruction of vitamins in the body and losses in the urine. Alcohol also interferes with the conversion of vitamin precursors to active forms.

Vitamins most often deficient in alcoholics are Folate, vitamin A, and thiamine. Folate deficiency contributes to malabsorption, anemia, and nerve damage, all of which worsen malnutrition.

Vitamin A deficiency damages the gastrointestinal lining, impairs, functioning of the immune system, and leaves the individual susceptible to infections.

Thiamine deficiency contributes to the brain damage that seen in Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, nerve inflammation called polyneuropathy, and heart inflammation known as cardiomyopathy.

Alcoholism can also result in scurvy from Vitamin C deficiency.

Alcohol metabolism interferes with the metabolism of vitamins by using up enzymes that are used to metabolize vitamins, so not only does alcoholism prevent the consumption of enough nutrition to extract the body’s needed vitamins, but even when vitamins are consumed they can’t be converted to a useful form for the body due to competition with alcohol metabolism with vitamin metabolism.

Presence of Mineral Deficiencies

Alcoholism produces deficiencies in the minerals calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron.

Alcoholism and Malnutrition and The Inability to Process Macronutrients

Alcohol interferes with amino acid absorption, and interferes with gluconeogenesis, the formation of new glucose for use by the body, and lowers blood sugar levels.

In the case of fat metabolism alcohol raises blood triglyceride levels, resulting in hyperlipidemia the high blood fats commonly seen in heavy drinkers and that leads to fatty liver disease.

Increase In Body Weight

Alcohol provides 7 kilocalories/gram in calories, and these calories appear to contribute to obesity. There are some cocktails that contain more than 500 calories per drink along with the snacks that come with those drinks and which contain their own high levels of calories and few nutrients, and as a result alcoholics can put on weight from their alcohol consumption.

In summary regarding alcoholism and malnutrition, alcohol interferes with normal nutrition by reducing nutrient-dense food intake, by affecting absorption, metabolism and excretion of many vitamins and minerals, and due to the amount of calories alcohols heavy drinkers can expect to put on weight.

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For other information on nutrition including alcoholism and malnutrition some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

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Alcohol and Metabolism
Alcohol Health Effects
Alcohol Excess Signs
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Nutrition Eating Disorders
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