Nutrients Depleted by Alcohol Consumption

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

When consumed in moderation, alcohol is tolerated by your body. However, when alcohol is consumed in excess, it can deplete vital nutrients. Learn how B vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals and macronutrients are depleted when alcohol is abused.

Alcohol and Nutrient Depletion

When it comes to food, many people live by the saying, 'everything in moderation.' If this is your motto, then you understand that any food, even the most decadent dessert, can be enjoyed as long as you do not overindulge.

The same saying can apply to alcohol consumption. In moderation, alcohol does not seem to harm a healthy body. However, overindulging in alcohol will deplete your body of many nutrients that you need for good health. In this lesson, we will discuss nutrients that are depleted by excessive alcohol use and what happens in your body that leads to alcohol-related nutrient deficiencies.

B Vitamins and Minerals

B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins that play a role in the breakdown of alcohol. The level of B vitamins in your body is greatly impacted by alcohol abuse. One reason B vitamins are easily depleted is because, as mentioned above, your liver uses them to help with alcohol metabolism. When you consume alcohol, your liver must go to work breaking it down. This breakdown requires enzymes that are dependent on B vitamins to work properly. So, if you consume a lot of alcohol, you use up a lot of B vitamins.

On top of this, we see that alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes you to lose water through urine. Because B vitamins are water soluble, this increase in urine production causes them to be easily washed out of your body. The diuretic effect of alcohol is also partly responsible for the loss of other nutrients, such as the water-soluble vitamin C, and some minerals, like potassium, magnesium and zinc.

Macronutrients & Fat-Soluble Vitamins

There are three macronutrients that you receive from your diet: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These nutrients supply the calories your body needs for energy, growth and repair. When alcohol is abused, it can change the way these nutrients are handled by the body. Heavy alcohol consumption damages the cells of the digestive tract, making it hard to digest and absorb nutrients from the foods you eat.

A high intake of alcohol also negatively affects the digestive enzymes needed to extract nutrients from food, which further decreases digestion and absorption. To add to this problem, we see that many alcoholics experience a lack of appetite or substitute alcohol for food. This low food intake diminishes the amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats available to the body. When dietary fat intake is decreased, it affects the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, which are vitamins A, D, E and K; vitamins that are fat soluble need fat in order to be absorbed and used by the body.

Nutritional Recommendations for Alcohol Users

It is important to replenish nutrients lost due to alcohol consumption. If nutrient depletion is severe, a person might need to seek medical treatment to treat the deficiencies. Reducing alcohol intake is an important step toward preventing future nutritional deficiencies.

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